Category Archives: Ethel Mortenson Davis

Poetry

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

I will call you dignity.
You are my mother.
You elevate our character.
And I will call you generosity;
you are my father.
You give us a largeness
that frees us from small meanness.

As for you, humanity,
I will call you lost.
Remember when you said,
“What good is poetry?”
“I cannot shape it into a vessel
and drink water out of it.”
“I cannot form it into a purse
and hold my money in it.”

Now, my lost one,
you have fallen into a hole.
You are on your hands and knees,
calling in the darkness
for your mother and father,
calling for poetry to be written.

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Running Free

a pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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Charlie

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

“What are you doing Edna?”

“I’m going to plant seeds in
the dark soil behind the cattails.”

“When you get into that corner
where my cameras can’t see you,
Edna, you raise questions.”

“Questions, Charlie?”

“Plant your seeds in the designated
areas, Edna. In the containers provided.”

“I like the soil behind the cattails, Charlie.”

“My name is Robo, Edna.”

“Okay, Charlie, Robo.”

“What are you planting, Edna?”

“Corn, squash, and beans: like the original Americans,
the first Americans.”

“But I can’t see you, Edna.
You must stay inside
in the afternoon, in case you fall.”

“Oh, is that the reason?”

“You must pay attention to the authorities, Edna,
so that all goes well for you.”

“If I don’t, Charlie, and I taste a bit of freedom,
then what?”

“You ask me questions instead of answering mine, Edna.”

“I hope so Charlie.”

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Tracks

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

After the storm,
on our morning walk,
deer tracks ran
along the water’s edge
in the heavy snow.

These were running tracks,
with great distance
between each footprint,
its force making
a deep imprint in the snow.

Yesterday was the last day
of hunting season.
A heavy snow and ice storm
ran all day,
keeping hunters at bay.

Because hunters cannot
hunt along the water’s edge,
these deer found refuge
along the lake’s shore,
among the cedar groves—

respite for another year.

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Ekphrasis Poetry

Ethel and I participated in a Write On Door County Art Speak’s event at the Kress Center in Egg Harbor earlier this week.  Francha Barnard led the group, and we produced two poems after looking at the art on display on loan to the Kress from the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay.

Snow Goose

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

An ekphrasis poem from Kendra Bulgrin’s painting:
“All In A Dream”

She was startled
out of sleep
by a sound
and ran in bed clothes
to the water’s edge.

There, along a blackened beach,
a snow goose lay dying.
She knelt down
near it’s limp body,
cradling it with her torso’s warmth
all through the night.

In the morning
she woke from the dream—
the snow goose gone,
but its softness
lingering long across
the front of her chest,
its message seared
in her mind.

When An Artist Drew an Owl’s Portrait

by Thomas Davis

A response after seeing Rebecca Job’s painting, “Glow” —
This started as an ekphrasis poem, but, as with most poetry, carved its own path during the writing process, metamorphosing into a poem about a pastel, “Barn Owl,” I saw Ethel Mortenson Davis draw.

A full moon, bone white as fine china, shines
through young white pine needles branching into night —

but she isn’t aware of the night’s moon, or its darkness.
A box of multi-colored pastels, half used down to the nubbings:
and she leans over the hand-crafted dining room table,
big light overhead,
staring at black paper,
eyes where her spirit is.

Inside her stillness you can feel the predator’s feralness,
alertness tense with consecrated concentration,

and then, as if her prey is shocked,
fate suspended in time,
her hands blur, her whole body moving,
as lines slash into blackness
and smear color, movement
into an owl plunging claws silently
toward an unseen mouse.

In less than a thousand heartbeats,
as the round moon shines,
the barn owl is frozen into black paper,
wings flared, large eyes swimming
with claws, silence, wings, death,

LIFE.

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The Birth of the World

a pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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The Room

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The morning walk
was soaking wet and cold,
water flooding down
the sides of hills.

I wonder if we
will end in water?
Sweeping floods from
an inlet sea
changing the course
of our earth.

Then at the top
of the hill in the forest,
maples in a glorious, gold coat
invited us in.

We opened her door
and stepped into
a fire-lit room,
warming our feet
and hands,
sitting awhile,
until the rain stopped.

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