An IQ of 20

To Sonja Bingen

By Thomas Davis

 They said he had an IQ of 20, she said.
Twenty!
As if he can’t solve free form math problems
and then type out right answers on his I Pad.
My God, you can read a book to him,
and then he can answer hard questions about the book
without any prompting at all!

The problem is he can’t talk.
They get him in a room and give him a test
and fail to get him engaged
in what they want him to do,
and he ignores them
and because THEY are ignored,
THEY discover he has an IQ of 20!

Of course, the truth is that their discovery is about money.
The law says they have to educate all young people
even if they can’t talk
and sit in a classroom without mannerisms
not like those the rest of the kids his age have.
But dealing with differences can be expensive.
You have to have trained people
to work one on one with severely challenged students
if they are going to prove they can learn.

What they’ve done is to convince people
that they’re gaining whenever they cut taxes,
but in the meantime average people like us
take home a little lesser percentage of the national income
after the tax cuts while the rich pile their wealth
into mountains of advantage
that the rest of us aren’t allowed to even know exists.

That means schools limp along,
overwhelmed with too many mandates,
resources stretched past the breaking point,
and, my God!, THEY say, I’ve got to tell you,
the American education system is failing!

An IQ of 20! she said.
How stupid!

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Wood Duck

a pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

img_0447

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Solstice 2

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

It is the darkest
of all days so far
this year.
I’m sure it will
never be light again,
never with bright sunshine
and hidden breezes.

But tomorrow
will show up,
and the light
will gain over the dark,
and you will be running
down spring’s path,
clinging to my arm.

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Trees

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Trees cover most of the northern half of Wisconsin.
Two hundred years ago
Wisconsin was a thick forest,
a network of interrelated lives
that spoke to each other
through their inner capillaries.

Trees have brains.
When an enemy
comes into the forest,
they communicate to
the rest of the trees
and put out a chemical
to fight the pest.

When trees are dying,
they gather all their nutrients,
like carbon, potassium and water,
and send them along
their inner pathways
to their children and grandchildren.

They are living creatures
with intelligence —
more compassionate
than many of us.

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When the Moon Turns Red

photograph by Sonja Bingen

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A Little Skin in the Game

by Thomas Davis

a poem from a book of poems I have been trying to get ready to send to potential publishers, Meditation on the Ceremony of Beginnings. The book contains poems I have written over a close to 40 year period as the tribal colleges and the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium became powerful educational movements.

Institute of American Indian Arts students,
empowered by their sense of 21st century American Indian art,
had arranged with the Executive Director of AIHEC, Veronica Gonzales,
to have a fashion show at the AIHEC spring conference in Albuquerque.
Della Warrior , President at the Institute, was worried.
She lectured them about no nudity, proper decorum,
and how they were representing an institution
that had taught some of the nation’s most respected Indian artists
and needed tribal college presidents’ support to survive.

When the big day came after a runway had been built
and students had labored over their creations for weeks,
the show unfolded to thunderous applause.
Traditional buckskin creations were followed by dresses, pants, jewelry, shawls,
and other works in a dramatic, wearables-color-filled explosion.
Della’s admonitions had resulted in a respectable, creative, glorious show
paraded down the runway.

Then the evening’s last creation came out
from behind heavy curtain protecting back stage.
Ron His Horse Is Thunder, body lean and sculpted
as if it were the product of an Indian Michelangelo,
President of Standing Rock Community College,
poster icon for the United States Bureau of the Census,
attorney,
soon to be Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,
one of the most distinguished educators in the United States,
came onto the runway, dark skin oiled and shining,
wearing nothing but a loin-cloth and carrying a war club.

The Institute’s students had filtered into the crowd
and joined in as students, faculty, Presidents, and distinguished guests
went wild,
and Della climbed into the hole of her emotions,
shaking her head, and looking bemused.

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Thanksgiving

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

As children
we don’t forgive
our parents.

As parents
we forgive
our children,

opening up
one of the back rooms,
sweeping up
the dust,

making room
again for you.

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