Category Archives: Poetry

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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Lost

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

“Who were these people?”

“They were people
who overpopulated their planet,
depleting all its natural elements.”

“They were at continuous war
with each other,
never satisfied with their treaties.”

“Eventually they lost their atmosphere.”

“Then nothing stayed on the planet.
Everything blew off.”

“Yes, in just a few thousand years
their life and their planet died.”

“They called themselves Earth, I think.
Earth.”

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Beside the Cottonwood

a villanelle by Thomas Davis

“Beside the cottonwood,” I start to say.
She looks at me. Words fade out of my head.
What now? I think. I focus on the way

She’s standing by the massive tree, the gray
Streaked through her hair a halo that has wed
Her essence to the glinting interplay

Of light and shadow dancing leaves that sway
And flutter in a breeze that seems to tread
Out from the tree into the fields of day.

The sudden silence morphs into dismay,
Confusion, even, maybe, just a hint of dread.
What if, inside a moment, disarray

Has somehow found our lives and cutaway
The passion in our hearts that’s always led
To moments that are glorious and fey.

But then she smiles. The tree’s roots dig through clay
And living sustenance flows to the spread
Of branches reaching to the sky, the play
Of light her spirit as my spirit’s quay.

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Under the Tail of the Milky Way Galaxy Published!

Four Windows Press has just published Ethel Mortenson Davis’s new book, Under the Tail of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Underthewaycover

This is Ethel’s fifth book of poetry and has all of the poems she has written since moving to Wisconsin from New Mexico.

John Looker, one of the world’s finest poets, The Human Hive, wrote from Great Britain that “Here is a harvest of finely-judged lyrical poems that express a joy in the natural world.  Carefully observed and beautifully expressed, they are not just nature poems however.  Ethel Mortenson Davis has a deep reverence for nature, coupled with a sadness at humankind’s frequent indifference.”

Standing Feather, whose book, The Glowing Pink, has recently been published by Four Windows Press, said in his review that “There is something profoundly spiritual and tragically elusive in our understanding of the vast wilderness.  In Under the Tail of the Milky Way Galaxy, Ethel Mortenson Davis shows us how to connect deeply with the sacred spiral and reminds us that compassion is the fragrant essence that draws light into the darkness of human desire and elevates us to the edge of grand possibility.”

We’re hoping that those who love elegant, finely crafted imagistic poetry will pick up a copy at amazon.com or from the Galleria Carnaval in El Morro, New Mexico, www.galleriacarnaval.com.  This is a book that continues the fine tradition of publishing quality poetry and fiction pursued by Four Windows Press.

 

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In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams to be Published by All Things That Matter Press

by Thomas Davis

I have just signed a publishing contract with All Things That Matter Press for my new novel, In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams. I was first introduced to ATTMP by the books of Diane Denton. The author of three novels (Without the Veil Between is a book that I have recommended on this blog), I have followed Denton’s career before she became an ATTMP author. I have also read some of Mary Clark’s books, the latest being Miami Morning, who is published by ATTMP. Located in Maine, HTTMP has a substantial, and important, list of both authors and books that they publish.

In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams is a novel about a black fisher community that located on Washington Island off Door County before the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. At the time it was the largest black community in Wisconsin outside of Milwaukee. The novel traces the community from the time of its meetings with Preacher Tom Bennett in the boot of Missouri in the Mingo Swamp through their flight from slavery northward through Chicago to West Harbor on Washington Island.

I first stumbled across the Washington Island community of black fishermen when I was doing research for my non-fiction book, Sustaining the Forest, the People, and the Spirit (State University of New York Press), a number of years ago. When I moved to Sturgeon Bay I read Island Tales, an anthology by Kay Curtis, and found a mention of the community again. I was intrigued and started researching in order to write what I thought of as a sonnet sequence at the time. Then, on a trip to Washington Island, the owner of Faire Isle Books, Deb Wayman, told me she would really be interested in a book on the black community since no such book existed. What was first intended to be creative non-fiction later turned into a novel.

The following is the sonnet that introduces the novel:

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.

I should also send out a word of thanks to Ralph Murre, the former Door County Poet Laureate, who gave me the title of the novel during a poetry workshop at the WriteOn, the writer’s retreat and organization in Door County. It is a paraphrase of a line from a poem by Pablo Neruda.

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Sweetgrass

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

It is a time
when the smell
of sweetgrass
hangs heavy
in the ear
of summer,

when light lingers long
in the night,
and we let go of
what is not right in the world,

when we drift
across the tall grasses
to where fireflies
are whispering
to each other.

In this small pocket
of summer,
the deer
have finally
let themselves
be seen.

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