by Thomas Davis The virus raging as so many elders die and young people party, drinking into laugher, risking brains that swell with fevers, mini-strokes, hallucinations that skew apart their world; The economy collapsing into unemployment as bread lines form like they did in the Great Depression, hollow eyes looking at the world with despair even as social distancing, safety is an impossibility as you stand in line, hungry and afraid; The video of a black man saying, “I can’t breathe” twenty times as a white policeman kneels on his neck, hearing him calling for his mother out of his terror, exploding into a nation’s consciousness the history of white robes and hoods, the spasm of confederate statues trying desperately to rewrite the history of military and social loss, the Trail of Tears, a President throwing paper towels as Puerto Rico mourns destroyed homes, flooded lives, spirits concentrated by a hurricane to rows of graves; The teetering of democracy as black, brown, Asian, Native people stand in lines for hours to vote in rain storms, intense heat, cold as sanctimonious voices praise the Lord and American exceptionalism and celebrate cages on the border where children, separated forcibly from their parents, cry, and a flush-faced leader claims he is the One, the only one who can solve the problems he has helped intensify; Then the ecosystems’ warnings as Antarctica glaciers melt, song birds cease to sing, the Amazon Forest burns and shrinks from year to year, migrations from wars, starvation, ethnic rage, dictatorial triumph put words in politician’s mouths that celebrate how great their country, party is; and then the greed that celebrates the rich selling snake oil: Come, give us tax breaks, roads, communication networks, robots that feed our wealth-making machines — rescue us when our venality threatens our prosperity as the virus rages, the middle class collapses, small business people fail, poor families lose their homes, the homeless starve, mental health deteriorates, people march for justice, the great extinctions of insects, plants, fish, all living things grows ever more deadly to the long-term health of the world and humankind, and greed demands the glorification of greed as the solution to the problems greed creates. I name the crises. The question is, what do we, as human beings, do now?
a pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis
I received news that Phil Hanisota had passed away a few days ago. I mostly knew Phil as a poet, but his gentleness and intellect as a brilliant medical researcher and a man who was always helping others around the world, had an enormous impact on my life. I miss him fiercely.
by Thomas Davis
Some souls walk through this life, their eyes so bright with all the good inside humanity that gentleness is who they are, their light a breath, a song that pulses ceaselessly into the restlessness of humankind, the anger, rage, hate, glory, love, and hope that layers through our relatives and winds into eternity’s kaleidoscope, and though we smile and joke and gently laugh to see them as they age into our days, we never sense the coming choreograph that lets us know that time is just a phase that passes as we contemplate a soul that touched our lives and helped to make us whole.
The latest podcast from the Tribal College Journal and Christine Reidhead about the tribal college movement has just been put up at https://tribalcollegejournal.org/our-history-memories-of-the-tribal-college-movement-podcast-10 In this podcast about the tribal college movement I talk about two legendary figures, Lionel Bordeaux, the Dean of Tribal College Presidents, and Martha McLeod, the founding President of Bay Mills Community College in Northern Michigan.
by Ethel Mortenson Davis
To Troy Davis
I hope you are in a place where there is justice, where there is love unconditionally, the end where young men no longer are lynched by ropes, or the machinations of killers, where there is light and not the suffocating, ethered mud, a place where you will rise above humanness. I hope you are in a place called Justice, a place that will never be named Georgia.
by Ethel Mortenson Davis
We saw how bad the killing is in this country. But the many more we did not see — children, women, and men in far away, hidden places, unknown towns, and mud-filled swamps. No one recorded their cries for help. Their blood has filled our land — up to the withers of our horses, touching the white wings of angels.
a photograph by Sonja Bingen
by Ethel Mortenson Davis The unfurrowing of new leaves is like a carefully synchronized orchestra with each musician in exact harmony. But we do not stand and applaud. Only Oriole gets up and sings his splendid song, dressed in brightly colored vestments.
Ethel and I were at my daughter Sonja’s house. She, Ethel, and Joey, our non-verbal autistic grandson, were sitting in the living room talking about the difficulty Sonja was having dealing with Joey’s new high school. Then, looking wistful, Sonja said something to the effect that she had been looking for books that Joey could relate to where the hero was like him. She’d only been able to find one book that sort of was like that, she told Ethel and I. Looking at him, with him paying attention to what she was saying, she said that you’re smart enough to learn, aren’t you Joey.
Afterward I got to thinking about what Sonja was saying. A little after that I sat down to start a novel about a non-verbal autistic boy who is a hero. The writing did not go well at first. The first chapter, reviewed for me by Sonja and Emma MacKenzie, a writer friend, was pretty bad. But, as usual, I kept at it. Ethel kept encouraging me. The result was a novel, Apples for the Wild Stallion. Ethel gave me the title name.
Yesterday All Things That Matter Press sent me a publishing contract for Apples for the Wild Stallion. It always takes awhile between signing the contract and actual publication, but I’ll be especially happy to see this particular novel in print.
The truth is that human beings all have different abilities and gifts. Humans are so good at discrimination, as the events in Minneapolis right now so painfully illustrate, but the truth is that Joey is a marvelous human being. When he smiles Ethel and I feel like the sun is coming out after days of rain. He is worth paying attention to and loving. He is a hero, like so many of the people who face terrible discrimination in their lives. He deserves praise, not the looks he and his family get when they go to a restaurant, and his arm goes up or his head shakes in a way that makes some of those eating in that place uncomfortable.
So, this novel is for Joey, and, in a sense, for all of those like Joey who have lives that are important in spite of the small ideas in other people’s heads.
On a Day When 100,000 People Had Died, A Black Man was Murdered in Minneapolis, and War Continued to Rage
by Thomas Davis
In Syria babies are starving
even as vultures circle in the sky
looking at extended bellies
that are empty.
As helicopters thunder overhead
bombs explode, and who wins?
The vultures? Those doing the bombing?
The starving child? The starving child’s parents
who revolted for what they thought
was a chance for a better life?
The virus obliterating
the wisdom people once thought
Insects are dying out all over the world.
Is this humankind’s wisdom?
Was Kafka right? Are we all insects after all?