Category Archives: Poetry

Companion Poems by Standing Feather and Ethel Mortenson Davis

Standing Feather, who, along with John Looker over in Great Britain, is one of the greatest of contemporary poets, sent a special email to Ethel Mortenson Davis the other day. He sent a poem, “Mariposa,” which is, in effect, a companion poem to Ethel’s poem, “Circles,” which was published in her book, White Ermine Across Her Shoulders” in 2011. They are both magnificent works of art. Standing Feather’s new poem is presented first, followed by Ethel’s older work:

Mariposa

New Mexico is full of dirt roads
that snake around sandstone mesas
and then straighten into vast expanses
before reaching any stop signs or pavement.
From the mesa tops you can see old trucks
rambling along the valley floor,
making dust that blows sideways
across stretching generations of rocks and people.

There is nothing like riding passenger
in an old truck, and as a child
I set the pace of my life
by Uncle Pink’s ‘66 Ford.
I knew the inner workings of the beast
from my years jockeying on the cracked leather seat.
The power of the vibrations climbed my spine
and rolled from my crown in great waves.

Youth’s wine-filled days are gone.
Today I stopped along a dirt road
to accept an invitation from the mariposa lilies.
Their power to stay rooted while waving in the spring wind
is like old trucks. Both offer rugged simplicity
to compliment the density of the rocks above.
I must be moving on. Remembering Aunt Ethel,
I crank my windows down to listen for the song of the meadowlarks.

Standing Feather 4-19

Circles

When I drive
through the desert,
I keep the windows rolled down
and usually hear a few notes
from the meadow lark.
New Mexico is full of bird life.

This morning, after last night’s shower,
I heard the clicks
of the Rufus hummingbird
through my car’s open window-
a metallic pinging sound-
like electric highline wires make
when you stand under them.

The hummingbird kisses
the delicate circuits
of the eco-systems.

In the north
the snowmobiles run
the gray wolf to exhaustion.
Once the gray wolf
was chased with dog sleds
or snow-shoes
and had a chance
to escape.

The wolf bites at his body
where the bullet enters,
shattering his flesh and bone,
shattering the delicate circles of life.

Ethel Mortenson Davis 2011

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Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry, Published Books

Rural Places

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Our brothers
saw under bridges,
saw alleys
off Main Street,
saw back rooms
behind bars,
and knew about
the old man up the road.

We, as daughters,
were put under bushel baskets
like the new fragile plants
you set out and cover up,
protecting them from freezing nights.

We didn’t see
the people living in crates
under the bridges,
the beatings and stabbings
in the alleys off Main Street
in our small town,
the women used
in back rooms behind the bars,

and
the wife of the old man up the road
who went on a trip,
but never returned home.

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Poetry Breakfast Publishes Ethel Mortenson Davis

Poetry Breakfast, an online journal of poetry, has an international audience.  One of the best poets in Great Britain, John Looker, told Ethel and I that he used to read it almost every day.  Poetry Breakfast’s Editor, Ann Kestner, took off some time in a sabbatical, but now she and the journal are back.  Ethel’s poem, “The Wind”, is up this morning, May 1.  The link to a wonderful everyday journal and Ethel’s poem is below:

Wind – A Poem by Ethel Mortenson Davis

A great idea is to subscribe to the Poetry Breakfast blog and then spend breakfast every once in awhile reading out loud the poem of the day with your coffee.

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The Sky is a Color of Blue Like No Other

a repost by Ethel Mortenson Davis

He said,

“Exceptional people
came from there,
people that did extraordinary
things with their lives
and did amazing things
in the world.”

That place is
in the high desert mountains
where there is a crisscrossing
of invisible lines.

“Our ancients said,

‘This is the center of the earth,
where creation started,
where you and I became,”

a no-nothing place
of mud and rock
and pinion trees,
where the sky is a color
of blue . . .

like no other
in the whole universe.

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Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry, Uncategorized

Light

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Stepping
from flat Texas
with wind-driven snow
into New Mexico
surprised us.

Suddenly
the earth changed plans
and rocked us
with red-browns and pinion greens,
flooding the cornea
of our eyes
with brightness.

Kneeling before us
you appeared.

We ran to embrace
your holy prostration.

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Wind

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

wind

Wind

She is the freest
of all women,
the wind.

The sound she plays
through the pinion trees
is a loud, sweeping sound,
like a great, spiny broom
cleaning away from the earth
things unnecessary.

Invisible,
yet she stirs the winter skies
to bring deep canyon snows today ̶
and then tomorrow
life-giving thunderstorms.

She makes us ask,
what is necessary?
What do we need
on our temporary trek
across the earth? Our suitcase in hand?
What is it we really want?

Only life from the wind.

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Filed under Art, Art by Ethel Mortenson Davis, Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry

In the Unsettled Land of Dreams

All Things That Matter Press has sent me the first edit of my new novel, In the Unsettled Land of Dreams.  I am working hard on the edit now, but it is slow.  One of the surprises is how long it is going to be in print.  I guess this is going to be one of the more significant works I produce in my lifetime, although I always am wracked by doubt about my longer works.

I thought I’d celebrate, though, by posting the first sonnet and paragraph in the novel.  Each chapter is prefaced by a sonnet and followed by text.  The book starts in Mingo Swamp in Missouri’s boot-heel country.  Joshua, a major character in the novel, is faced with one of several decisions that he will face on a day that promises to change his life forever.

Inflamed Imagining

A Spenserian Sonnet

Inside the swamp beside a cypress tree
(White herons in the water, bullfrog croaks
A symphony as dusk, as stealthily
As cat’s feet stalking small, shy birds, evokes
The coming night) the Preacher slowly stokes
The fire blazed in his heart and starts to sing
Songs powerful enough to loosen yokes
White masters forged through endless menacing.

The words he used burned deep; he felt their sting
And saw his spirit fire alive in eyes
Awake to dreams, inflamed imagining
Of days spent free beneath glad years of skies.

The darkness deepened underneath the tree.
He’d preach, he thought, then, later on, they’d flee.

Joshua did not want to go with his mother when she came down from Master Bulrush’s big house after dark where she was the Mistresses’ servant. He had gone through another miserable day. His stubbornness, born out of unfocused resentment, was always getting him into trouble. He couldn’t seem to want to protect himself.

The Overseer, an aging black man called Silver Coats who had terrorized Bulrush plantation slaves for years, had struck out with his whip and cut a shirt already threadbare twice that day. The last time the whip’s cord had cut him, leaving a long, red whelp crusted with blood on his skin. The deep, painful cuts were made on purpose. The Overseer was an expert at how deep his whip bit flesh.

Joshua, small for his age, mostly didn’t cry when the big black man, gray haired, light skinned, with a mean streak and perpetually snarling face, whipped him. He was fourteen years old and had long ago decided he was not going to cry every time the Overseer, or Master, brought out one of the whips hung in a small lean-to shed attached to the plantation’s red barn.

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Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis