Category Archives: Poetry

At A Kellogg Foundation Meeting in Mesa, Arizona

By Thomas Davis

He was a big man in Arizona
And sincere.
We were in Mesa, Arizona during the winter at a meeting
Sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation,
Tribal college Presidents and administrators, students, Board members, and faculty.
The white man in the tailored black suit
Had shown up and was invited up front to speak.
The Foundation wanted the mainstream universities and tribal colleges to work together with a common purpose.

The Chancellor of the University was careful and polite to begin with,
But then, as if he couldn’t quite help himself, he said:
“You know, I really don’t know what you people want.”
He gestured toward the crowd of Indian eyes and faces.
“I mean, the University of Arizona has developed programs
And reached out to the Reservations
Since signing of the treaties.”

The crowd of tribal college presidents and the others there
Didn’t say anything, didn’t move, didn’t clap, but looked interested and polite.
He clearly didn’t understand what Indian people needed.

Note: This is a poem from the tribal college movement. The incident happened a long time ago.

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Creativity

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

to: Standing Feather

When we become
the most fragmented,
the most broken,
or so we think,
we step
onto the track,
the furrow
that is the circle
of the universe.

It is a river
that pulls us along,
connecting us
to something greater
than ourselves,
to the great spiral,
to the circle dance of the honey bee.

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As Power Layers Over Power

A song by Thomas Davis

I thought I’d post a song from a play that I am writing. This is a first draft effort. I have one scene to go to finish the first draft. Called “A Gathering of Ravens”, the play is set in a mythical kingdom called Montrose and has a collection of wizards, witches, and kings. I haven’t written a play since our years in Carlton, Minnesota, so I have been enjoying the process

As power layers over power,
The world feels how the weirding shower
Of fates dance on the precipice
Of change, the whirling genesis
Where human will and human courage
Confront the powers that discourage
The dreams of what humanity
Can be if only sanity
Wraps power, hate, and fear with songs
That heal wounds festering from wrongs.

As power layers over power,
The world feels how the weirding shower,
Derived from flows that weakness stirs
In spirits craving power’s burrs,
Sings songs as dark as raven wings,
As frightening as the hate of kings.
We sing sweet songs of love and peace
As chaos dances, is released.

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Red LikeYoung Girls’ Cheeks

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Rosy-red crab apples lay
on the ground in front of us
as we walked in the chilled air
near a forested lake.

Fifty years ago
the same red crab apples
were picked up
by a college student
as she strung them
on a string around her neck.

She knew this was a beginning
of the path she would follow,
a path centering herself to the earth.

This also was a period of darkness
where a string of blackness
would catch her in a trap.

But there were people
like the shepherd mother
of the small dorm where she stayed
who taught her
there were good and trustworthy people:

apples that lay at our feet,
red like young girls’ cheeks
in the chilled fall air.

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Song of Our Days

by Thomas Davis

a villanelle

We sing alive the mornings of our days.
We struggle through the storms we face
And glory in the filigree of ways

That dance into the vivid, dark blue blaze
Of chicory inside a field and grace
The moments when we’ve shrugged away malaise

And float upon a river’s passageways
Into the shine of sandbars at a place
Fresh water flows into an ocean’s bays.

There’s nothing new beneath the sun. The haze
Of old age seeps into our thoughts, the pace
Of who we are weighed down by yesterdays;

Yet, as we feel our aching bones, we gaze
Into the morning light and interlace
Into the sky’s celestial cabarets.

I sing this morning of my life and praise
The days I’ve had, the loves I’ve had, the chase
Across a lifetime through the ricochets,
The symphony that’s sung alive my days.

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Blackberry Moon

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Blackberry moon,
moon of the blackberry month,
snags at me,
rips at my skin.

Star-gazers come
and get caught
in her sweet clutches,

but are overtaken
by a storm
with brittle, scratchy fingers
of lightning
that blackens out the moon.

Now we must wait
for the harvest moon
as she ripens
on top of the waters.

Note: This is Ethel’s contribution to the moon-night organized by Francha Barnard and Write-On Door County.

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At Newport Beach Beneath a Harvest Moon

by Thomas Davis

“The storyteller moon,” the old man said.
We sat upon the long-grassed beach and stared
Into a sky now dark, the fiery red
of sunset flung at stars the sky had snared
Into a symphony of silver stained
Into a river of eternal light
Above the song of waves that, lapping, trained,
Like time, into the shores of moon-struck night.

“No, not a storyteller moon.” He sighed.
“That comes just as the winter starts to howl.
That’s when you tell the stories that are tied
Into a tree frog’s peeps or black bear’s growl.”

Moon-struck, star struck, we heard the lullabye
Of waves absorbing us into the sky.

Last night Ethel and I traveled to Newport Beach where the Door peninsula looks out on the wild waters of Death’s Door, Buttes de Mortes. Francha Barnard had invited us to join her and other Door County poets to write poems beneath a full harvest moon.

On Saturday night the moon had been full and orange as it rose over Door County, but, after a summer that has seen the corn shriveled from drought, we drove up the peninsula to the park beneath cloudy skies that rained off and on. By the time we reached Newport Beach it was clear that none of us were going to take lawn chairs in the darkness down to the beach unless we wanted to ruin the tablets we’d all brought with us and got thoroughly soaked.

Instead we went to the ranger’s front office, talked awhile, and then, stymied from our effort to write poems beneath a full moon, listening to waves singing onto beach sand, we sat down and tried to write a poem nevertheless. Both Ethel and I, in the miracle of being with other poets, succeeded.

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