the farmer separated
the calf from its mother.
He wiped away
the amniotic fluid
with a gunny sack
before putting him
in a separate pen.
Black children born
to enslaved parents were
taken from their weeping mothers
and moved hundreds of miles away.
were snatched from anxious parents
and moved to some miserable life.
A Central American baby
Is ripped from its mother’s arms.
Both baby and mother’s spirits
The farmer’s wife protested,
“keep the calf with its mother.
Do you need every ounce of milk?”
“This is the way we do things,”
replied the farmer.
The new calves
are growing stiff
from the wetness of birth,
and old men
come running across the fields
who killed our
I say to them,
surely dead leaves
can’t grow in your pockets now.
Meditations on the Ceremonies of Beginnings is a book of poetry developed over decades as I played my small role in the tribal colleges and universities and world indigenous nation’s higher education consortium movements. Tribal College Press has announced it will be released in late November. The cover design just came in! The drawing is by Ethel Mortenson Davis.
You’ll have to enlarge to cover to read the writing, but I am especially excited about what Carrie Billy, one of the great leaders of the tribal college and university movement, and Kimberly Blaeser, on the most important Native American poets in the United States, say about the book.
When we are
and can’t recognize
When we are
we go to this
to gather ourselves
in the act of
cleaning away dying plants —
to repeat our worth —
in places we recognize,
like the wounded fox
into the small culvert.
The Door County Poets Collective has released its newest book, Halfway to the North Pole! A unique poetry anthology, it’s available at Sturgeon Bay’s bookstores and through either Write On Door County or fourwindowspress1.com. It is published by Four Windows Press, the small publishing company Ethel and I own.
There are a lot of Door County’s most important poets represented in the book as well as other poets that have been loyal visitors over the years. Estella Lauter, the instigator of the Collective, in her “Preface” describes the theme of the anthology: “We hope these poems, while providing some anchors in parts of the County you know, will introduce you to places, people, and issues you haven’t noticed and might want to know better on your own: places like Mud Lake, Three Springs, Bjorklunden, Mojo Rosa’s; people like Increase Claflin or Norbert Blei; efforts to bring back the Monarch Butterflies, preserve the night sky, cut or treat infected ash trees, keep the Boreal forest. Door County is not only a beautiful place where culture and nature support each other; it is also a complex community of people and other creatures who come together to care for the land and water that sustain our lives in all seasons. Halfway between the hottest and coldest places on earth, we like to think we have the best of both.”
A baby wren
came to sit
in the burning bush
to show me
she has grown
into a strong bird.
With graceful gratitude
she came to show me
light in my dark world —
just as a matched pair of horses
pulled John Lewis
across the Edmund Pettus Bridge,
so he can be a light
in our black world
just one more time.
Doors at Chaco Canyon photograph by Kevin Davis (2/16/1982 – 7/21/2010)
“The Framing” a poem by Richard Brenneman
This is the anniversary of our son’s death in Poughkeepsie, New York from cancer ten years ago. This is always a sad day for Ethel, I, and our daughters, Sonja Bingen and Mary Wood, every year. This blog was started in honor of Kevin, who was a wonderful web designer, photographer, artist, and poet. This year we are publishing one of Kevin’s most iconic photographs, a doorway found at the Chaco Canyon ruins in New Mexico, and Richard Brenneman’s wonderful poem about the photograph, remembering someone who was deeply, deeply loved.
by Richard Brenneman
Ekaphrastic poem celebrating the Kevin Davis photograph, “Doors at Chaco Canyon”
Picture this --
seen through the lens of a camera;
eye sighting perfectly this line of sight,
image remaining after.
The photographer has entered into
this, his picture.
A framing frames the ancient remains,
frame within frame like stone ghosts
from the living to the not living.
During the day, the doors,
like sideways viewed Chinese boxes, point the way
to the sky, or a blank wall
where the lords of death
(or alternatively, the lords of life)
are lodged beyond, whether
in kiva, hogan, teepee,
pyramid -- the mountain of gods.
At night invisible,
you can barely see the framed gates.
Above, the moonlight,
a few stars shine bright:
Polaris, Sirius, Aldebaran.
The gods of old-time
have come for you --
you who framed this image.
Time into framing,
gate, window, doorway --
starlight seeps out
light from unseen life
in sunrise or twilight,
you who sighted this
in your view finder.
If we look at this image askew,
we can almost see you as shadow,
the dust motes, the whirling dervishes
slipping through the frame of time,
the ancient gateways
to join the lords of life, of death
to ascend timeless, bodiless
to the stars,
to become framed
as infinite starshine.
a loud crash
sounded against the house.
A flicker lay struggling
on the ground,
his life ending.
A beautiful bird
with speckled chest,
and red feathers
on his head
looked as though
his spine was broken.
I put him in a quiet
part of the garden.
His weak cries were fearful.
Later that day,
when I checked,
he seemed closer to death.
The next morning
when I went to collect him,
he was gone.
I want to think
he got up and flew
up to the top of my tree,
but probably a cat or fox
found him on their trek
across the country.
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?