Category Archives: poems

Maple Sugar Moon

On World Poetry Day

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Maple sugar moon,
like maple sap
boiling over wood fires.

you tell us
of the coming spring—
sweetness that brings

one more year
to get things right.

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by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Forever is not a word
In our universe,
nothing in it
stays the same.
One day our earth
will become pieces
in the cosmic pond.

We are not forever.
Your movement
in the early morning
through the quiet rooms
will one day drift away.

Forever is not a word
in our universe.
One day we too
will have to part.


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by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Sometimes I want to go to you
but remember that I have
put you in a special room
far from here,
a room, nonetheless,
with an open door,
so that I can enter

So, I can see
your smile when you
were running with Shiva,
the golden lab,
through autumn leaves
in a special forest
long ago.
So, I can walk through that door


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by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The moon is most beautiful
at her beginning, or end.
Like a fine-edged sickle
punctuating the blackness.

A lot like you.
Not outstanding.
Almost missed.
Nevertheless beautiful.

Step outside with me.
We’ll see her
from the steps.
Let your skin
touch the cold.

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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:


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.


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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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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

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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Sherry Grant from Auckland New Zealand,

a classical musician and poet, sent Ethel a poem about one of her drawings:

Sherry Grant’s poem:

To Your Melody

By Sherry Grant (Op.2786)

Utter magic! Webs of colours you freely spin,
Bittersweet young passion, time left beguiled,
Hesitant tears rush, sensation penetrates skin,
Hopelessly tangled knot, hearts racing wild.
At the edge of a dream two unicorns meet,
Sigh after sigh, clearer the shape of ecstasy,
Each ascension a fresh fountain so sweet,
This heaven built for you and me, our intimacy.

©️ Sherry Grant, Auckland, 2021-11-22, Op.2786
Inspired by ‘To Music’ by Franz Adolf Friedrich von Schober (Germany, 1796 – 1882) and
Alexander Scriabin‘s ‘The Poem of Ecstasy’ (Le Poème de l’extase), Op. 54
©️ ‘Song of Ecstasy’ (pastel) by Ethel Mortenson Davis (USA)

Ethel Mortenson Davis’s drawing that inspired the poem:

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Elephant Track

By Ethel Mortenson Davis

Last night two men
slept close to an elephant trail,
hoping to see the herd.
In the morning
they discovered an elephant track
between their two sleeping bags.

We are the same.
We are part of them,
they, part of us.

This morning we ran
to catch a glimpse
of the last of October’s light
as she lit the tops of trees on fire,

and heard the voices of cranes,
high above our heads,
that we have heard 
a thousand times before.

But still, we were lifted.

A great river
drifts through us.
She glimpses us
to see if we have caught
the ripples she throws out.


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