Category Archives: Poetry

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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The Telling Dream

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

In my dream
it was nighttime.
I was in a muddy field
overlooking a large city
with bright lights.
The field was enclosed
with barbed wire,
and there was a herd of cattle
within the enclosure.
  
The cattle were not really cattle,
but were members of my family.
They were up  
to their bellies in mud,
unable to move.
Hundreds of poisonous frogs
were climbing onto the cattle,
killing them with their bites.
  
This was a foretelling,
a story of betrayal
and pain,
a story of survival 
and transcendence,
an ancient story.
  
Come over here
and sit down by this tree,
and I will tell you this story.
It is a story of my life 
and yours.

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Separation

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

At birth,
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.
 
Native children
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
are broken.
 
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.

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The New Calves

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The new calves
are growing stiff
from the wetness of birth,
 
and old men
come running across the fields
asking,
who killed our
apple-blossom time?
 
I say to them,
surely dead leaves
can’t grow in your pockets now.

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New Cover for my new book of poetry was just finalized!

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.

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Enough

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

This last,
fading light
is enough
to carry us
across the field,
across the world,
 
enough
to lift us
from ourselves,
our mitered lives
in this small changeling
of a disappearing evening.

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Places We Recognize

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

When we are
desperate
and can’t recognize
the world,
we climb
into words,
grasp letters,
covet paragraphs
to find
smallness.
 
When we are
desperate
we go to this
small garden
to gather ourselves
in the act of
cleaning away dying plants —
to repeat our worth —
in places we recognize,
like the wounded fox
that crawls 
into the small culvert.

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Four Windows Press Publishes Door County Poets Collective Anthology

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.”

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