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Poetry Moment: Geffrey Davis and “Meditation at a Pennsylvania Diner: Early Morning”

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Todd Davis is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona.

This episode's poem is “Meditation at a Pennsylvania Diner: Early Morning” by Geffrey Davis.

Geffrey Davis is the author of two collections of poetry: Night Angler, winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and Revising the Storm, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, from which today’s poem is drawn. Davis lived for many years in central Pennsylvania, avidly fishing the streams and rivers near State College and earning his MFA and PhD at Penn State University.

Poems remind us that in any given moment—even those that seem most mundane, like eating breakfast at a diner—a person near us might be nursing a wound, struggling to make sense out of a lost relationship.

In Davis’s poem, the speaker remembers his ex-wife, and while she does not physically sit in the diner booth across from him, she’s a very real presence in his life, continuing to influence the possibilities for the coming day. There’s grief and forgiveness in this poem, a negotiated gratitude that while this marriage has failed, something of the other person continues to reside within. As in so many human relationships, a complex array of irony and sincerity is on display as the speaker offers wishes for his ex-wife amidst the clatter of the diner where a cook tries not to burn the toast and a waiter keeps the coffee warm.


Meditation at a Pennsylvania Diner: Early Morning

I order cranberry juice with my over-easy eggs
and wheat toast: an impulse that lingers

from my ex-wife’s concern for my body
and what it could not hold forever.

What does it mean to name this moment
concord? With thousands of miles, three

ranges of mountains, and a merciless silence
between us, let this drink-order simply bless

this morning headed West, her way, still fat
with possibility. My waiter’s smile seems

convincing enough. He’s kept my coffee warm
and the toast arrives unburnt. Yes, just kids,

we failed utterly to span that great domestic divide—
we didn’t have a chance—but I applaud those two

for staying in it until the house burned
to the ground. And now, if only for her

ghostly part in ensuring I have enough
cranberry juice to wash it all down, I wish her

100% of her daily vitamins when she wakes,
a healthy portion of phytochemical nutrients

and antioxidants—glasses of juice so fresh
she could sing of a deliciousness to this world.

I refuse the false concentrate this diner uses
to become some dark hearkening to our misplaced

faith in the deep red promise of wetland blossoms.
We have every spring to recover,

to gulp the aroma of blooms—lungs filled with
the spectral sweetness of fruit we will never eat.


That was “Meditation at a Pennsylvania Diner: Early Morning” by Geffrey Davis.

Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at

Todd Davis is the 2022-23 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.