Sunday, August 13, 2006

Happy 100




















If my father, Jefferson Bryan Davis (but known as J. Bryan Davis, probably because the Civil War was still a live cultural memory during his childhood; he'd been named for the president of the confederacy), had been alive as of this past Saturday, he'd have reached the age of 100.

Here are a few photographs of the man at various stages of his life. I don't have precise dates for any but the last of them, but arrange them in rough chronology based on obvious physical factors, family consensus, and, for the later ones, my memories of growing up, watching him change as I did.

The first photograph, one of the earliest I have of him, shows him as a boy or young man sometime between 1918 and 1922, I'd say - between the ages of twelve and sixteen. I'd guess it's toward the later part of that range.



The second image is much later, and most likely after his marriage to my mother, Blanche Landis, in 1938; the photographer was taken on the porch of her parents' home in Dysartsville, North Carolina, where they farmed. It's probably from the mid-forties.










The third photo presents him en famille, with Blanche to his left, my brother Phil to hers, me to his right, and my sister Martha on my right. Given the apparent ages of everyone, this must have been taken in the mid-fifties; Phil was born in 1950, and seems to me to be four or five in this photo. Fifty years laterI don't remember the particular occasion , but do remember other family photos taken at Belk's or Ivey's, then big department stores in downtown Charlotte, that had photo studios. This shot feels like one of those.



This last shot is one I took in the summer of 1971, not long before he turned sixty-six. It's set in the backyard of my parents' house on Chesterfield Avenue, in Charlotte, using the steps from the back porch and the hydrangeas that grew by the basement door as frame.

He died about two years later, in June of 1973.




Here's one of the poems from NatureS, an elegy for him, just a touch surreal, written in the late seventies:

™

Asanas of Night

(For J. Bryan Davis, 1906-1973)

Salt crystals still the words
Of the mute.
What justice
To you who were
Messenger
Of the last, of the final
Closed eyelids
Of chrysanthemums?

Just the red spirals,
The blind
Sacrifice, the
Burned kalpas of moss.

Walk on through
Coronations of goldenrod,
Share clover’s bed
Into the dark.

You can dream
The ideologies of leaves,
The intricate taxonomies
Of mist, songs
That echo
In the catacombs
Of the mycelium’s sleep.

Your hands infested still
By gorged rocks,
By the light that burns
In the owl’s eye,
Go far.


Happy Centennial, Pop.

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