Category Archives: poems

I Name the Crises

by Thomas Davis

The virus raging as so many elders die
and young people party, drinking into laugher,
risking brains that swell with fevers,
mini-strokes, hallucinations that skew apart their world;
 
The economy collapsing into unemployment
as bread lines form like they did in the Great Depression,
hollow eyes looking at the world with despair
even as social distancing, safety
is an impossibility as you stand in line, hungry and afraid;
 
The video of a black man saying, “I can’t breathe” twenty times
as a white policeman kneels on his neck,
hearing him calling for his mother out of his terror,
exploding into a nation’s consciousness the history
of white robes and hoods, the spasm of confederate statues
trying desperately to rewrite the history of military and social loss,
the Trail of Tears, a President throwing paper towels
as Puerto Rico mourns destroyed homes, flooded lives,
spirits concentrated by a hurricane to rows of graves;
 
The teetering of democracy as black, brown, Asian, Native people
stand in lines for hours to vote in rain storms, intense heat, cold
as sanctimonious voices praise the Lord and American exceptionalism
and celebrate cages on the border
where children, separated forcibly from their parents, cry,
and a flush-faced leader claims he is the One, the only one
who can solve the problems he has helped intensify;
 
Then the ecosystems’ warnings
as Antarctica glaciers melt, song birds cease to sing,
the Amazon Forest burns and shrinks from year to year,
migrations from wars, starvation, ethnic rage, dictatorial triumph
put words in politician’s mouths that celebrate
how great their country, party is;
 
and then the greed that celebrates the rich selling snake oil:
            Come, give us tax breaks, roads, communication networks,
robots that feed our wealth-making machines —
            rescue us when our venality threatens our prosperity
            as the virus rages, the middle class collapses, small business people fail,
            poor families lose their homes, the homeless starve,
            mental health deteriorates, people march for justice,
the great extinctions
            of insects, plants, fish, all living things grows ever more deadly
            to the long-term health of the world and humankind,
            and greed demands the glorification of greed
as the solution to the problems greed creates.
 
I name the crises.
The question is, what do we, as human beings, do now?

10 Comments

Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis

To Phil Hanisota, My Friend

I received news that Phil Hanisota had passed away a few days ago. I mostly knew Phil as a poet, but his gentleness and intellect as a brilliant medical researcher and a man who was always helping others around the world, had an enormous impact on my life. I miss him fiercely.

by Thomas Davis  

Some souls walk through this life, their eyes so bright
with all the good inside humanity
that gentleness is who they are, their light
a breath, a song that pulses ceaselessly
into the restlessness of humankind,
the anger, rage, hate,  glory, love, and hope
that layers through our relatives and winds
into eternity’s kaleidoscope,
 
and though we smile and joke and gently laugh
to see them as they age into our days,
we never sense the coming choreograph
that lets us know that time is just a phase
that passes as we contemplate a soul
that touched our lives and helped to make us whole.

11 Comments

Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis

George Floyd

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

We saw how bad
the killing is
in this country.
 
But the many more
we did not see —
children, women, and men
in far away, hidden places,
unknown towns,
and mud-filled swamps.
 
No one recorded
their cries for help.
Their blood
has filled our land —
up to the withers of our horses,
touching the white wings
of angels.

7 Comments

Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry

Unfurrowing

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The unfurrowing
of new leaves
is like a carefully
synchronized orchestra
with each musician
in exact harmony.
 
But we do not stand
and applaud.
 
Only Oriole gets up
and sings his splendid song,
dressed in brightly colored
vestments.

7 Comments

Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry

On a Day When 100,000 People Had Died, A Black Man was Murdered in Minneapolis, and War Continued to Rage

by Thomas Davis

In Syria babies are starving
even as vultures circle in the sky
looking at extended bellies
that are empty.
As helicopters thunder overhead
bombs explode, and who wins?
The vultures? Those doing the bombing?
The starving child? The starving child’s parents
who revolted for what they thought
was a chance for a better life?
The virus obliterating
the wisdom people once thought
elders had?

Insects are dying out all over the world.
Is this humankind’s wisdom?
Was Kafka right? Are we all insects after all?

11 Comments

Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis

What Happens When You Get Old?

by Thomas Davis

Afraid, Grandma started talking
about the two weeping willows in her back yard.
When the wind blows they move around
and make complaining noises, she said.
She said she was waking up late at night
and hearing them moving around in the dark.

In her early seventies she still loved
gardening and growing flowers.
Her long row of red and pink peonies
beside her driveway’s black cinders,
usually covered with crawling ants,
bloomed all spring and summer.
After she and Grandpa George had built their adobe house
putting earth-bricks together by hand,
she’d planted climbing rose bushes,
creating a rose arch in front of the front door.

Later, behind the willows she’d planted
after snipping twigs off a massive tree
growing beside her favorite fishing hole
at Schweitzer Lake and sprouting white roots in a glass jar,
she started a garden with concord grape vines,
strawberries, sweet corn, sugar beets, potatoes, lettuce, green beans,
and tomatoes bigger than tomatoes ought to be.
During late fall days, before the cold came,
she spent hours, florid face red and sweating,
putting the year’s harvest in mason jars.

When she finally let the garden go
after getting a job at Goodwill downtown,
the willows started worrying her.
She complained about them as if she thought
they were angry at her the way her neighbor was.

He claimed that when she and George
had built their house in the poor part of Delta
they’d put their porch and cellar
six inches into land he purchased a decade later.

Finally, one night when she couldn’t sleep,
she went out and tried to chop the tallest willow down
with a rusty axe from the coal shed.
When she discovered she’d grown too old
to manage that in the middle of the night,
she called an old man she’d known for sixty years
and had him chop down both willows
“for firewood to feed his wood stove.”

12 Comments

Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis

Gaia’s Song and Wisconsin People and Ideas

Thomas Davis

One of my favorite publications has, for a long time, been Wisconsin People and Ideas. For the first time the Editor, Jason Smith, has had to work with the Wisconsin Academy to put it out virtually rather than in printed form.

I hope it returns to its printed format soon, but I and a lot of other good poets have poems in this issue: https://www.wisconsinacademy.org/sites/wisconsinacademy.org/files/WPI_Spring2020_F.pdf

Wisconsin People and Ideas has a poetry contest every year, and the best poets in the state compete for the honor of appearing in the magazine.

My poem, “Gaia’s Song,” is on pg. 49. Door County poet Estella Lauter also has a poem in this issue as does Ethel’s and my good friend, Nathan Reid. These poems all won Honorable Mention in the poetry competition.

Of special note also is an article by Jude Genereaux of Door County about the Lac Courtes Oreilles Ojibwe radio station, WOJB. When, a long time ago now, I was President at Lac Courtes Oreilles Ojibwe Community College we had a close relationship to a radio station that was truly a different drummer in Northern Wisconsin.

I hope people will check out this issue and, just as importantly, join the Wisconsin Academy! It represents the intellectual capital so abundant in this state.

2 Comments

Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis

All That Is Left

The primeval forest at the Toft Point Preserve

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Underneath
undisturbed giant trees,
beneath the soil,
the mycelial web—
a fungi galaxy of life,
connects all the trees
together,
one species next
to the other for a reason—
a dependency for life.

Lichens drape
the forest floor,
even over the fallen trees,
covering them
with a green blanket.

Tree trunks grown
for four or five hundred years
climb into the clouds.
My heart seems to grow
at least as tall.

A bird’s song
I do not recognize,
plants I cannot identify.

The air thick with oxygen
and the icy breath
of a thousand Wisconsin winters
gathers around our ankles
as we stand in a primeval forest
on a small finger of land—

all that is left.

Note: Based on the scientific discoveries described by Peter Wholleben in The Hidden Life of Trees.

8 Comments

Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry

You

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

You came to tell me
this morning
that he was gone,

but last night
when the dread came
and overwhelmed me,
I knew.

You see, love
transcends space and time.

2 Comments

Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry

The Rain Stepped Softly

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The rain stepped softly
over us last night,
kissing us with
sweet tenderness.

But we push her away,
telling her to leave us alone —
like the spoiled, unthankful
children we are.

2 Comments

Filed under poems, Poetry