The Booth

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Our son would not last
another night.

We stopped to have coffee
at a corner restaurant.
The woman in the booth
next to us said,

“Lemar, I told you
to sit down and shut up,
or I’ll slap you
up the side of your head.”

The little boy sat down
and then stood up,
not knowing what to do.

Finally he sat down.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

20 responses to “The Booth

  1. Like a photograph in you mind?

  2. Dear Ethel and thomas, I feel I know you personally because of the way you write. Your work always strikes a chord. But it also feels fragmentary. There’s a way to write the way you do and at the same time provide the reader with a sense of completeness. If you would lik to discuss this, email me at

  3. Hi Ethel,
    I liked this because it feels like a glimpse into a room as I walk by. The picture settles into my subconscious and is fleshed out only as I stop to think about it. I feel the contrast and irony of loving parents losing a son and having to experience a not-so-loving parent abusing one. In their own way, they both share an end.

  4. Like the comments above, this piece feels like a moment in time. As a reader, I see the image in my mind. As a person, overlaying that experience with how I might feel if I was to lose my own child makes the image profoundly sad. Very evocative.

  5. I can barely imagine the emotional moment of being on the cusp of losing a son, while witnessing another mother taking hers for granted. This is packed with heartbreaking power – you say it all, with so few words. Great poetry once again, Ethel.

  6. Caddo Veil

    Yes, this is a tough one, Ethel–I wonder if I could have contained/restrained myself, wanting to stand up and scream tearfully at the woman. But I suspect you had far more grace than I. God bless you today.

  7. It is a shock to read your opening line, Ethel. But then you are a creative family all of you and through your work on it together your blog is often in memory of your son, and a magnificent tribute. It is interesting – in a technical way – to see how you and Tom bring the same light to shine on that painful experience, although you do so in such different ways.

  8. Imagine if that mother was told the next day her son was dying very soon! Thank you for this very thought-provoking poem about how we don’t have the time with loved ones we think we do. Time is God’s, not ours.

  9. sonjabingen

    I think that the whole experience with losing my brother feels fragmented and broken, like being shattered into a million pieces.

  10. The juxtaposition of what we are experiencing at a particular moment with the very different experience of another has a way of heightening our emotions – you have captured this so well here

  11. A mixture of feelings in this one… such a difficult experience. x

  12. How raw the feelings are when the egg timer is against you. A harassed tired mother …. in maybe a similar situation to you both. … reprimands harshly a child who does not know the aggravation he is causing. Beautiful poem written under extreme emotional stress. What struck me most was how calm, how remove you both sound. Thank you for sharing it cannot be easy.

  13. Anna Mark

    I am a teacher, and there are days when I want to take many of my students home.

  14. “The Booth” contains a point well taken by this follower…

  15. Angela

    You lay such raw and honest profundity on the page, Ethel, which speaks to the soul.

  16. Speaks volumes, elegantly. The reader makes all those connections. Beautifully done, Ethel.

  17. There is no fragmentation here for me, Ethel. I am always so satisfied by your work, so moved and opened by it. This one says all it needs to say of your pain and awareness and helplessness.

  18. I think what I meant by “fragmentary” was the way the poem opens up analogies that cannot be resolved. Sonja spoke movingly to this “fragmentary” quality of the experience.

  19. As a parent myself it’s clear to me what you are saying here Ethel.

  20. There are ambiguities in emotional life that poetry is quite able to embody and that is its glory. in that sense, and not that sense alone, this is a fine poem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s