Category Archives: poems

Heaven

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Wolf moon
 with yellow-green eyes,
 slipping between trees,
 slipping from heaven.
  
 Timber wolf
 with yellow-green eyes,
 slipping between trees,
 slipping between exploding bullets-
  
 heaven slipping between
 our fingers. 

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In Memory of Juno

Poem and pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

 Dog
 The way you buried
 your nose in my hand
 made me unable to forget you
 that cold morning
 at daybreak.
  
 Skin and bones you were.
 Perhaps a boot to your neck,
 or starvation
 sent you fleeing to my gate,
 asking for help.
  
 So I let you in.
   

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About Being Lost

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

 As a different species,
 you were there
 in the beginning,
 leading the toddler
 clinging to the long hairs
 on the ruff of your neck
 out of the vast corn field 
 and into the arms of frantic parents.
  
 Then, in midlife,
 you led us
 out of the western wilderness
 back to the road—
 how glad we were
 to find a way out.
  
 Now, in old age,
 you are disappearing
 from our lives—
 a little each day,
 as a new wilderness
 looms on our horizon.
  
 Who will lead us back 
 to the road now? 

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What Hope Is

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

I’ll tell you
 what hope is.
 It’s not going
 to the grocery store
 and getting yelled at 
 for bringing your
 screaming son along
 and then next week
 doing it again.
  
 It is breaking through
 the thick cloak that surrounds him
 and finding a small increment
 of communication,
 reaching down into
 the cylinder of autism
 and pulling out
 shafts of light. 

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An Artist that Uses the Color Blue

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

 The first pictures
 of the earth from space
 showed a blue and white jewel
 shining out of the blackness.
  
 It was like seeing
 patches of blue in the sky
 after a difficult storm,
 blue patches
 that gave us hope,
  
 or seeing rare blue flowers
 on an ancient forest floor,
 or the sparse blue iris —
 a surprise
 in the dry desert.
  
 Blue is the color of promise,
 the color of hope. 

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Christmas Day: Sledding on the Mountain

by Thomas Davis

 We drove Grand Mesa’s unpaved, snow-packed roads
 Around its hairpin curves until the banks
 Of drifts were high enough to stop the plows.
 Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins slammed
 Car doors and shouted so their voices echoed off
 The slopes and cliffs that soared into the sky.
 Then “food enough to feed an army,” sleds,
 Toboggans came from car trunks as the day’s
 Festivity spilled out into the winter cold.
 My Dad and Uncle dug into the snow
 To make a fire with driftwood, branches found 
 Down in the canyon as we’d driven by 
 The stream that gurgled songs beneath the ice.
  
 Then, looking down the road toward a bank
 That lurched uphill before a hairpin curve,
 The oldest of my cousins laughed and jumped
 Onto her sled, her head downhill, and slid
 Like lightning flashed into a coal-black sky:
 The slope so steep she flew, the hill of white
 A half mile down as solid as a wall,
 The road beneath her hard and slick as ice. 
  
 Her mother, Aunt Viola, laughed to see 
 Her fly toward the snowbank wall as I
 Could hardly breathe to see the tragedy
 Unfolding as the sunlight glared into my eyes.
 My eyes began to hurt.  She had to crash
 Or slam into the wall of snow so hard
 She wouldn’t be my cousin anymore.
  
 But, as she hurtled down toward her doom,
 She dragged her legs behind the racing sled
 And turned the blades before she hit the hill,
 And everybody who had come to watch
 Began to yell when she rolled off the sled,
 Popped to her feet and shot her arm into the air.
  
 When, after other cousins dared the hill,
 I hesitated, swallowing to see 
 The downhill slope, my younger brother jumped
 Ahead of me and joined into the fun.
 I stood above my sled and felt my heart
 Quail, staring down toward the distant bank
 That still seemed solid as a concrete wall.
  
 I froze and couldn’t move until my Dad, 
 Behind me, got me on my sled and pushed
 Me off as cold and snow and light became
 A blur of flying, flying down the road.
 I flared my legs behind the hurtling sled
 And tried to slow down as I turned the blades,
 The running sound beneath my stomach, snow
 A cloud of ice as I rolled off the sled
 And came up, sunk in snow up to my hips,
 And shouted with my arm up in the air. 

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Christmas

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

 We dropped her off
 after the Christmas program.
 Snow was on the ground.
 The night was cold.
  
 We waited, with
 our car running,
 for her to get inside.
  
 But,
 instead of going
 in the front door,
 she scurried up
 a wooden ladder
 that was placed outside
 to an upstairs bedroom.
  
 Faster than a blink of an eye
 she went,
 faster than we ran up                
 our own stairs at home.
   

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All of Us

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

we cannot go
to another planet,
to another earth
in another solar system.
 
We are too late for that,
too far away.
 
Instead, we must
sit down, you and I,
and look into each other’s eyes,
our arms embracing,
before we can save
any of us.
Window

			

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Meditation on Ceremonies of Beginnings Released by Tribal College Press

Tribal College Press has launched Meditation on Ceremonies of Beginnings! The book went up on their site, https://tribalcollegejournal.org/buy-meditation-on-ceremonies-of-beginnings, yesterday. I have emphasizing the Tribal College Press site for purchases because any purchase here goes to help the tribal college movement out through work that the Tribal College Journal does with all of the colleges.

To me, at least, this is the most important book I have ever written, as accidental as it is in some senses. It represents decades of work for all the tribal colleges and specifically for the colleges that I worked directly for over much of my life. Imbedded in the book also are all the sacrifices Ethel and my children, Sonja, Mary, and Kevin, made during the years when I was working so hard to make so many things happen of American Indian communities and students in individual communities and nationwide. I also want to celebrate Ethel’s magnificent pastel the press used for the cover.

I received my first copy of the finished book at the house yesterday, and I was surprised at how much emotion it generated in me. The tribal colleges and universities and international indigenous controlled institutions of higher learning are so important! All of us need to reach out, if we are not American Indian people, to the original people of this land and celebrate them and feel the power of what they and their communities have to offer the world. I hope that in the pages of this book of poetry both Indians and non-Indians can find the spirit of the tribal colleges and universities and then become inspired to support them in some concrete way. They are still among the poorest funded colleges and universities in this country even though they are doing God’s work in some of the poorest places in the United States.

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In the Time of Covid

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The old men
 are dreaming bad dreams.
 The rain will not fall
 on our land.
 Even the deep water
 stays away.
  
 I yearn for the earth
 to give us her blessing,
 her sanction,
 so we can harvest
 the oats and rye again,
  
 so I can run
 to the far field
 to wrap my arms around
 the face of my horse
 and dream good dreams. 

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