Category Archives: Poetry

A Little Skin in the Game

by Thomas Davis

a poem from a book of poems I have been trying to get ready to send to potential publishers, Meditation on the Ceremony of Beginnings. The book contains poems I have written over a close to 40 year period as the tribal colleges and the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium became powerful educational movements.

Institute of American Indian Arts students,
empowered by their sense of 21st century American Indian art,
had arranged with the Executive Director of AIHEC, Veronica Gonzales,
to have a fashion show at the AIHEC spring conference in Albuquerque.
Della Warrior , President at the Institute, was worried.
She lectured them about no nudity, proper decorum,
and how they were representing an institution
that had taught some of the nation’s most respected Indian artists
and needed tribal college presidents’ support to survive.

When the big day came after a runway had been built
and students had labored over their creations for weeks,
the show unfolded to thunderous applause.
Traditional buckskin creations were followed by dresses, pants, jewelry, shawls,
and other works in a dramatic, wearables-color-filled explosion.
Della’s admonitions had resulted in a respectable, creative, glorious show
paraded down the runway.

Then the evening’s last creation came out
from behind heavy curtain protecting back stage.
Ron His Horse Is Thunder, body lean and sculpted
as if it were the product of an Indian Michelangelo,
President of Standing Rock Community College,
poster icon for the United States Bureau of the Census,
attorney,
soon to be Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,
one of the most distinguished educators in the United States,
came onto the runway, dark skin oiled and shining,
wearing nothing but a loin-cloth and carrying a war club.

The Institute’s students had filtered into the crowd
and joined in as students, faculty, Presidents, and distinguished guests
went wild,
and Della climbed into the hole of her emotions,
shaking her head, and looking bemused.

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Thanksgiving

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

As children
we don’t forgive
our parents.

As parents
we forgive
our children,

opening up
one of the back rooms,
sweeping up
the dust,

making room
again for you.

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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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