Category Archives: Ethel Mortenson Davis

Sophia and Erik’s Wedding

At our granddaughter Sophia's wedding, Ethel wrote one poem for the wedding that she read out loud during the ceremony.  A friend of our daughter Mary read another poem by Ethel that was written 55 years ago during our courtship.  Then, at the reception I sat down and wrote a poem commemorating the event as the mariachi band played and people people danced as sunlight streamed out of the clouds for the first time all day.

The poem Ethel read:

Hope

Dear Grandmother,

today your great, great granddaughter
is getting married
to a fine, young man,
and they promise their love
is greater than their parents’ love
and their grandparents’ love.
They promise they will be happier
than their parents were
or their grandparents.
And they promise their children
will be loved more than all 
the ancestors put together.

Dear Grandmother,

this is their promise,
and this is our hope.


The poem from 55 years ago:

How Could I Know?

It looks to me as though
you’ve been around, perhaps,
since time began—
and I have lived at least
as long.

Oh? Only that much time?

I’m sure there was no life
before for you or me.
How could I know your face
so well?

As well as some old rock
I’ve seen hang, clinging
to a mountain wall,

and I know what wave of brightness,
or of darkness, to expect there
waiting for me.

You step and make some rounded move.
I know beforehand which way to go.

How could I know?  Unless. . .
You’ve been around, perhaps,
since time began.

I know I’ve lived at least as long.


The poem I wrote:

At My Granddaughter’s Wedding

First the bald eagle above the bay,
water dancing light on lines of waves,
then cranes in the greening field,
Babies and parents communicating 
with legs, moving necks, and wings in the sun,
and then the rumor of storms
brewing black clouds in the north,
stirring with big winds.

But then, after a night of worry,
the ceremony was to be outside,
the wedding day came, cloudy,
a fifty percent chance of rain.

But then the rain didn’t come.
Wedding roses lined paths
to the small wooden church.
Then, the words as ancient 
as human spirits, were spoken
by the bride and groom,

and then the sun came out
as the mariachi celebration began,
as clouds thinned,
and my granddaughter and her love danced
as music rose into an evening sky—

and love was everywhere.
Everywhere.

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Swimmer

a pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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Village

a pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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Wholly Human

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Fannie Lou Hamer
was beaten by a policeman
until he couldn’t beat her any longer,
so he had his partner continue
the beating.

That day, Fannie Lou
left part of her brain
there on the ground,
but she didn’t leave her courage.
She came back for more.

Because she only wanted
her people to be free,
free from fear,
free from beatings,
free from death
just free to enjoy life,
to be wholly human.

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Bird of Paradise

a pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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Three Sails

A pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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Why Night Was Made

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

I’m sure night was made
when man invented war
so that darkness would
put her arms around him,
slowing him down
so that he could think things over.
And then at dawn
start new again.

I’m sure night was made
when war came to this family,
breath knocked out of the man,
the woman and child 
languishing in the street.
Darkness would give them
a few moments of relief.

I’m sure darkness was made
when man invented war.

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Laughing as He Went

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Now,
they want to clip
the ears of the Gray Wolf,
clip them back
until the wolves are almost decimated,
weakening their packs
to almost extinction.

The native tribes of Wisconsin and Montana
have stood up for the wolf.
They see themselves parallel to the wolf.
They too were killed back
to almost extinction,
starved and hounded,
brothers to the wolf
in life and suffering.

The hunters carry away
the great, large bodies of wolves
in their arms, 
laughing as they go.

I remember the Gray Wolf
that morning as he rolled
down a steep embankment,
looking like a great ball
of white and gray fur,
laughing as he went.

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Melodies of the Sun

a pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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Peace Figure

a pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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