Category Archives: Poetry

The Last Tiger

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

 He is a great Siberian Tiger,
the last one.
They have him
in a steel cage
with thick grey bars—
there, at the center
of our town.

Sharpened sticks
lie all around him.
He has many wounds,
but there is still fire
in his eyes.

A young girl
comes to the cage,
crying and afraid.
She says,
“You must stop this now.
You must save this animal.
He is the last
of a royal species—
a sacred kind.”

She knew the combination
of the lock and opened
the cage door.
He sprang towards
the light, carrying
with him the girl’s heart.

“Go to the most northern
region of our country.
There the forests
will save and protect you.
There is still yet time.
There is still yet time
to balance God in the universe.”

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The Gatherer

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

He is not just a gatherer
of ripened berries and roots,
plants of every kind,
but he is a gatherer of days
and lights and secret places
where treasures abound.

He’s not just a gatherer
of summer strawberries,
blueberries, and blackcaps,
the northern red cranberries,
but a gatherer of open spaces,
a quiet still hill,
and a meeting at last
of his wild woman.

She is there in the blanket
of golden chanterelles
among the deep pockets
of the forest
where he finally ravishes her
with kisses to her mouth
and blowing hair.

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Beneath the Red Cliffs

by Thomas Davis

for April Chischilly

Beneath red cliffs as first morning light reflects fire
into an impossibly blue sky,
a Navajo woman, aging, calm, long black hair and black eyes
a part of high desert juniper and pinion trees,
walks as beauty stirs backwards and forward in time.

The medicine man in his Hogan’s darkness
sees a woman he doesn’t know through an ancient crystal
handed from medicine man to medicine man
through thousands and thousands of years.
He feels heart-strength, spirit-strength,
sees her facing what is beyond the light’s weaving,
her beauty-song echoing and echoing
into the song of women, the spirit of women
who have forever given birth
and lived through the everyday turmoil of everyday
without flinching, trying to find the courage that is who she is.

Courage weaves a blanket from light out of the woman’s heart
into the texture of red stone.
It rises from the moment when sons were born,
patience was worn away as dreams and hopes were deferred,
as self honesty penetrated weaving consciousness
that tries to protect itself in the interest of shuttling
strength and goodness into the sinews and spirits of children.
Speaking softly, singing beauty, the Navajo woman walks
beneath cliff fire ignited by first light
beneath an impossibly blue sky.

The Navajo woman walks beneath red cliffs
in an impossible blue sky
as first light sets sandstone walls on fire.

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Lightning Bugs

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

We, as children,
celebrated the arrival of fireflies,
calling them lightning bugs.

We danced with them
in the meadows,
collected them in glass jars.

Some of us
took their thoraces,
rubbing them on the backs
of our T-shirts,
letters glowing in the dark.

We didn’t know their light
was sacred–
that this gift brightened

our backwoods swamp,
lighthouses called to mind
in our walled-off childhood.

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Knotted Swing

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

I remember
when we went into
the high haymow,
way to the farthest corner
of the barn,
to swing out across
the drop-off edge,
holding the knotted rope
between our legs.
You would say,
“Jump off now.”
“Jump off.”

And when we climbed
the tallest maple tree
in our yard,
and we were at the top,
you would say,
“Jump down now.”
“Jump down.”

I knew somehow
that you were
not right in your mind,
but I did not care
because I loved you
anyway.

Now, when I think
about our rope swinging,
I have placed a large pool of water
underneath the knotted swing—
as big as Lake Michigan,
a cushion—
so when I swing out across the barn
I have something
just in case I fall.

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Cover for In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams

All Things That Matter Press (ATTMP) has just sent me the cover for In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams, my new novel about the black fisherman community that settled on Washington Island off Door County before passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. ATTMP is shooting for an early August release. After better than sixteen drafts, I’m ready!
Screen Shot 2019-07-21 at 1.56.09 PM

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Doorway at Chaco Canyon, a poem about the photograph by Kevin Davis

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Summer solstice
was the day you chose
to photograph the open doors.
Only then was the light
brightest at the last door.

Ancient doors aligned
to summer’s celestial calendar—
when the sun hangs
lowest on the longest day,
when the light is brightest
at the last door,

showing us the path
to enlightenment—
all we will ever want
in the world.

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