Photo by Bill Pratt
Song of the Drunkards is the second volume of a four-volume series Opening King David, meditations on the Psalms. These poems, by turns questioning, reverent, lyrical and witty, have already aroused unusual interest, as reflected in the following comments: “Beautifully felt and thought, with a religious element that pervades but never overwhelms the poetry, Song of the Drunkards does that most difficult thing: it is specific and timeless at once. Compassionate, praiseful, confident, but never sentimental or dogmatic, the poems draw me back for continual searching, discovery and re-reading.” – Dick Allen

“These poems echo, reverberate with meaning, and give us new perception, insights into the world we inhabit. Offering us the consolation of an intelligent human spirit who speaks of everything that flails at his heart, Davis struggles with the darkness and is not broken. The poems show us not only that we must not look away from the world, from its terror, but that we also must not ignore its ravishing beauty. His poems teach our hearts to persevere.” – Vivian Shipley

“These are poems that think and wonder and yes, by God, that pray. They do so with a cosmopolitan tongue and a formal sense acutely measured against the expansive possibilities of the poet’s intellect and spirit. Brad Davis is a storyteller, has a marvelous touch with detail, and can be awfully funny. He’s also that most rare thing: a poet with a profoundly moral vision who can plumb the richness of experience, both public and private, as it is cast against the inscrutables. The motto implicit in these poems? “Not merely to describe (beautifully) nor to tell (deftly) the tale, but (as in the Biblical sense) to reveal.” – Clare Rossini

Brad Davis is from San Diego, California. He has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has taught at The Stony Brook School (NY), Eastern Connecticut State University, the College of the Holy Cross (MA), and Pomfret School (CT) where he was the founding editor of Broken Bridge Review and the Broken Bridge Folio Series. His own poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, DoubleTake, Image, Michigan Quarterly Review, Tar River Poetry, Connecticut Review, Puerto del Sol, Ascent, and other journals. In 1995, a poem of his won an AWP Intro Journal Award; in 2005, his chapbook Short List of Wonders won the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize (selected by Dick Allen); and in 2009, a poem of his won the IAM (International Arts Movement) Poetry Award (selected by Brett Lott). Brad is married to Deb; they have a son John who lives with his wife Mariko in Brooklyn (NY).

The Antrim House seminar room offers notes, issues for discussion, and writing assignments. Click here to attend the seminar on Song of the Drunkards.

Click here to read a major review of all four books in the Opening King David series, published in the journal Christianity & Literature, Summer 2009.

Click here to read six sample poems.

For other books in the Opening King David series, see the Antrim House catalog.


ISBN: 978-0-9770633-5-2
64 pages, 6" x 9" trade paperback


These things I remember.
Psalm 42:4


“Ah, this! New snow to my knees. The warming reach
of early morning sunlight. The air hung with fullness....”

What she read to us from her journal a week before
she had two liters drained from her cancerous lungs.

Every Thursday after supper, she and Bill drop by
to join the small circle of friends who gather to pray

and listen for God’s voice in the stillness of Scripture.
Sometimes we sing. Sometimes we share what we

call God sightings. Sometimes we laugh so hard
one or more of us stumble from the room wheezing.

Bill has taken a leave of absence from work to care
for Donna. Ah, this: loss of stamina, shortness of breath –

as a deer pants for streams of water, that sort of thing.
After prayer, Donna spoke of a satisfaction deeper

than what follows a slow walk in the woods, a month
of good reports, or a quiet evening losing track

of whatever time it may take for a long bath, longer
massage, pillow talk beyond a doctor’s recommendation.

That Thursday, Bill sat with her on the couch, eyes closed.
They deny themselves no good thing, not even praise.

You no longer go out with our armies.
Psalm 44:9


Quickly at the end of recess, kickball
having been summarily concluded
by the scowl of a bell, we would grab
the red rubber gym balls and, from the base
of the playground’s two-story north wall,
punt them onto the flat roof of the schoolhouse
and hightail it to our classrooms.

Of course we knew better, but
we were so tough,
the stuff of future varsities
and gunboat patrols on the Mekong Delta.
We owned those balls the way we owned
our reputations, so if we
couldn’t play with them, no one would.

Four slow decades on,
I am still at school, but now my work
is to unlearn that original arrogance – fluffed
by championship rings, purple
hearts, advanced degrees – and become
the very kind – think overalls, broom closet –
for whom, back then, we toughs
had no regard: the kind
our parents’ taxes paid to have climb
the dark stairwell to the schoolhouse roof,
gather up those errant balls, and, for the next
round of children at recess, throw them back down.

He lifts his voice, the earth melts.
Psalm 46:6


On these leveled acres of lawn
surrounded by stately brick dorms, slate
roofs rippling in an April heat wave,

students lie out like soldiers in a field
or laundry on riverside rocks
ready for folding or for burial.

Last week, we buried a young alumnus.
“The kid the rest of us wanted to be,”
a dry-eyed classmate said

and grabbed my arm, the sudden
protest of her tears no respecter of age
or station in life or the politics

of grief, that old impassivity
like a hard, waterless moon pacing
round and around a cold, blue-boned body.

May the Gentiles be glad and sing for joy.
Psalm 67:3


In the midst of my muddle, O God,
sneak up, come alongside, break an egg
over my head, by your annoying goodness

make a royal mess of my cynicism,
provoke praise and melody and the laughter
of self-pity ribbed by grace. Bring it on,

for this would be salvation to me, tired
as I am of the cult of earnestness.
Give me the bread of gladness, and the land

will know of it, the rocks and fields will
hear it from my mouth. Though none join me,
I will not be silent. With or without

stringed instrumentation: a psalm, a song
of joy among the peoples weary of earth.

From the depths of the earth you will again bring
me up.
Psalm 71:20


– for Jerry Carrol

From behind a boyhood wall of rocks
you and I lobbed pine cones at passing cars.

In cracks between other rocks, we hid the first
cigarettes we stole from our mothers’ purses.

You always loved the feel of flat rocks –
stones really – in your palm, their release

and arcing flight toward distant targets.
No easy, point-blank throwing for you.

In our teens at the reservoir, we jumped
from rocks – fifty feet, buck naked –

the rocks you, by then a college freshman,
tumbled from and died instantly. Last summer,

on the summit of Blackcombe – three-
hundred-sixty degrees of treeless peaks, ten

centimeters of new snow – again rocks
and the incomparable gentleness of light.

Some days I imagine it’s where you’ve gone:
climbed to the rock center of a circle of peaks

and set your tent forever there, in that gathered
community of transparency and praise.

Endow the king with your justice, O God.
Psalm 72:1


The emperor, by his own admission,
grumpy, nonanalytical,
woefully resistant
to big picture thinking
and the cries of the poor –
but, my, the castle landscaping –

Pray for the emperor.

Wouldn’t be so bad
with a buffer of brilliant advisors,
but yikes! they –
a butcher, a baker,
a sleazy poll taker – see
even less of the whole than he.

Pray for the emperor’s advisors.

One side of me wants the empire –
from squatters to landed lords –
to prosper, not even one
tree failing to bear fruit or stream
unwilling to cough up netfuls of fish
for the tables of the realm.

Pray for Babylon; as she prospers, we prosper.

But my notion of prosperity differs
from that of the emperor who assumes
that complaints against his nobles
mean the lazy poor must be chafing
at being made to do their work.
Please. It is not the work that chafes,

and so there is another side of me
that cannot abide his royal assemblies,
that stands with the “lazy poor”
around the perimeter of his banquet hall
and waits with those who wait
for justice to roll across the realm
like a mighty, unforgiving flood.

Yes, pray for the emperor’s soul –
whose name will be forgotten
like a nondescript meal eaten in haste –
and pray for mine.

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