Newport Beach

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

It is the end
of Door Peninsula,
the Newport  Beach  forest,
 
less dense now
from the gale winds
of last September
that toppled dead trees,
crisscrossing their trunks
ahead on our path
amidst living, smaller trees.
 
There are no words
to describe the large
old pines and cedars,
the largest trees
I have ever seen in Wisconsin —
 
not the picked over
forest trees
of two and three cuttings
that mostly remain here.
 
So tall these trees
along Lake Michigan,
dripping morning fog
on top of our heads and faces
from their skyscraper canopy.

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Blooms

a photograph by Sonja Bingen

Blooms

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On Mother’s Day

by Thomas Davis

Outside winds howled with snow and bitter cold.
The phone rang: “Mrs. Davis?” asked a girl.
She sounded frightened. “Yes?” Her voice controlled,
too soft, the girl said, “Kevin…” Strong emotions swirled
into the howling of the storm, the cold, the snow.
“I’m scared,” she said at last. His mother caught her breath.
He’s hours away, she thought. It’s twenty-five below.
The roads are ice. This is a night for death.
“I’ll wait here with him, but you have to come.”
No cars were on the road that late at night.
She crawled across the miles, the constant drum
of howling winds accentuating fright
that made her fierce when, shaken, stunned,
she put her arms around her struggling son.

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Magnolia Spring

Photographs by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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magnolia spring

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Restoration

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The lips of the rain,
soft at first,
become
cold and stiff
from last night’s
freezing temperatures.

Out on the lake
The black-winged Pelicans
fish in huddles.
They are restored
to their ancient places,
the Great Lakes.

If only we could restore
the people to their rightful places,
bringing young and old back
to their ancient lands.

Instead millions are pushed out
from wars and famines
into a great movement

like schools of fish,
swarming,
moving like a great wheel
across the face of the deep.

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Spring Day on the Water

a photograph from the canoe by Sonja Bingen, our daughter

Spring Day on the Water

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In the Nursing Home

by Thomas Davis

Memory silks like a worm
into a place where comfort ought to be.

Inside a kitchen, bristling with energy,
the woman sits beside a young man
who looks as if he’s lost what self he had.

“You can’t tell anyone, no relatives.”
Her voice was hitched, almost a whisper,
but still as strong as springtime river currents.

The young man looks at her, tongue-tied.

“In Dalhart, Texas, years ago,
you had a second cousin birth twins,”
she said. “The scandal tore the family
as if a funnel cloud had come from nowhere,
ripping our family tree and smashing it
to smithereens, its remnants strewn debris.”

She looked at the young man, saw how words
had brought blood to eyes, reddening them,
hands clutched below the table.

“One twin was black, the other white,” she said.
“Your cousin’s husband concluded sin the moment
the doctor tossed the news into his craw.”

She wrung her hands upon the tabletop.
“It weren’t no sin, though, not a raindrop’s worth.
They traced the family back to New Orleans
where a white Frenchman married a slave woman,
giving our family Nigerian blood.”

“Our family?” the young man asked, stunned out of hurt.

She grinned, triumphant. She’d nicked away the words
nursed inside his I-ought-to-go-eat-worms.

“Your relatives deny it’s true,” she said.
“People in that bigoted town saw twins
downtown, a boy and girl, and slurred their hate
in spit-fulls, but it wasn’t sin at all.
It was human spinning generations
into a mix that makes humanity.”

She looked at him again. “The relatives
Will kill me if they know I’ve told that tale.”

Inside the small, dark room, I look at her,
Into her eyes. She doesn’t look at me.
Alive inside her emptiness, old age
An eraser, she doesn’t know I’m here.

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