Category Archives: Thomas Davis

Love Singing Alive the Moon

by Thomas Davis

Upon a shore where sheets of ice had stacked
Into a shadowed sky, the full moon round
And silver in a field of stars that tracked
The darkness with eternity, the sound
Of waves beyond the ice a lullabye
That serenaded who they were, they walked
And held each other’s hands and felt the sigh
Of what they’d lived inside the talk they’d talked.

And in between their words, love sang the moon
Alive to whom their dreams said they would be
As passion beat against soft silver strewn
As light across ice shards, a filigree
That echoed pulsing waves, blood stirred, inflamed
Into two lifetimes that was love exclaimed.

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The Seer

A ballad by Thomas Davis

 “It is hard to follow one great vision in this world of darkness and of many changing shadows. Among those men get lost.”
― Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks

“Not far from Big Skylight and Four Windows Caves,
across fields of aa lava, loose, rough, sharp, flecked with green and orange lichen,
in darkness so absolute light becomes a memory,
blind dragons live beside an underground river”

— Thomas Davis, Inside the Blowholes

One day and night, three days and nights,
He sat inside the earth
And stared at winter’s cold, bright skies
Awaiting spring’s rebirth.

Inside his heart an awful dread
Quaked through each day’s long hours,
His mind’s shade stirring strange,
Malevolent, dark powers.

At sixteen years he should have been
Alive to all life held,
But in the windswept wilderness
He sat alone, compelled

To wait for promises that hung
Suspended in the air —
As foreign to his wish for life
As ghosts of grizzly bears.

Then, with the rising of the moon,
As puffs of glittering snow
Flowed ghostly over coal-black stones,
A trance began to flow

Like water over who he was,
His dreaming powerful
Enough to give him second sight,
A world turned beautiful.

And from the east he saw them flying,
Great beasts with whirling eyes,
Bright wings, long necks outstretched, their bodies
Dark in cold, night skies.

Inside his cave his vision thundered songs
As beasts as large as hills
Flew straight toward his hiding place,
Then flared their wings, a shrill

Bewailing shivering alive
The silver moon, the stones,
The night-time universe,
His fragile frame of human bones.

“Beware! Beware!” His spirit wailed.
“We’re dragons,” said huge minds
Inside his mind. “We’re all that’s left
Of ancient dragonkind.”

He tried to cringe back in his cave,
But as the dragons sank
Their claws in earth and slowly walked
Past where he hid and shrank

From heads and bodies nightmare-huge,
He felt how sadness filled
The night and twisted who he was,
His boyhood murdered, killed

By creatures that could not be real,
By sadness from a trance,
By loss much greater than the loss
Of humans from life’s dance.

The dragons passed him in the night,
Came to a cave so huge
It seemed to swallow dragons whole
Into a centrifuge.

As dragon after dragon went
Beneath volcanic ground,
He held his breath and prayed and prayed
He’d not be seen nor found.

At last a single dragon paused
Before the mawing dark;
She seemed to sigh before she left
The night, a matriarch

Who did not want to leave the world
For life inside old fires
Long ossified to rock and sure
To end her life’s desires.

And as she paused she turned and saw
Him huddled in his cave.
Her eyes whirled fire and made him quake
While trying to be brave.

She made no sound, but stared at him
Until, his heartbeats wild,
He crawled into the night
And stood, a frightened human child

Inside the gaze of dragon eyes
That bored into his heart
And stripped him of humanity,
His spirit rived apart.

The dragon snorted, sending fire
Into the nighttime air.
He stood and forced his eyes to match
The dragon stare for stare.

The world seemed poised upon a brink
Where revelations stormed,
But then the dragon turned from Seer,
Child, leaving him forlorn.

Inside the moment when the dragon
Turned, left him once again
Alone, his hair turned white; he aged
And grinned an old man’s grin.

He kept the dragons’ secret safe
And lived a hundred years,
A man apart, a man so strange
He had no sense of fear.

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Filed under poems, Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis

An Old Man’s Applause

by Thomas Davis

I was seven years old.
Mom insisted I was too sick to play an old man in a fake gray beard,
but I had worked hard to memorize my school play’s lines.
I was so sick I could hardly get out of bed.
I got up anyway, dressed in old man clothes
Mom had stitched out of Dad’s cast-off pants and shirts
and walked out of the house through darkened streets to Delta Elementary.
Back stage I half fainted when I saw
the auditorium packed with kids, parents, and grandparents.
Other kids and our teacher just accepted that I was there.

Feverish, I feverishly repeated lines over and over in my head
and fought my stomach’s queasiness.
Then the play about pioneering, wagon trains, and wilderness began.
When my turn came I walked teetering, the way I was supposed to, on stage.
My Mom had no idea where I was.

An old man, I sat on a stool covered with a painted cardboard stump,
voice quavering as if I was sixty years old and not just sick.
When I finished the audience broke into thundering applause.
I bowed quickly, went off-stage, down ancient wooden stairs,
and went outside where the Milky Way flowed light toward the horizon.

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Ocatillo

by Thomas Davis

You feel them still, the desert ships:
Ocatillo, candle flame, white canvas rigged
Like sails triangular and luminous
Above the rose of wooden cabin blocks
That sail the mesa, bright ephemerals
Light driven, taut against the desert winds.

You walk in desert silences:
Sand, rock, a shimmering of heat,
The tall saguaros dark as masts against the sails,
The light blue of an early evening sky,
And feel the ships as desert devils dance
And time warps up an ancient ocean floor
Into these mountains dark with earth
And blue and lighter blue with distances.

And then the human metamorphosis:
The dry rose blocks of wood become the wall of stone.
The canvas light becomes the light of glass,
Of roofs that slant toward the magma heart of earth.

I sit alone beside the stones
That make the medicine wheel turn.
The ironwood, palo verde, barrel cactus, cholla, dark mesquite
Surround me, wrap me in the light of sails,
White canvas luminous with flame.

I bunch my muscles hard against the mountain’s slope.

A mountain lion’s paws leave marks upon the earth.

Note: This was written a number of years ago when I was peripherally involved with the Frank Lloyd Wright Fellowship. This poem is about Frank Lloyd Wright’s creation of Taliesin West in Arizona.

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On Writing Sonnets

by Thomas Davis

The writer who wants to write a sonnet must set out to write a sonnet. A free verse poem can conceivably come completely out of the subconscious. The poet might not even set out to write a poem, but a poem forms itself on the page as the writer is writing, or they select passages from a journal that can be turned into a poem.

Traditional verse poems like the sonnet demand that the poet set out to write in this or that form when they begin the poem. Creativity itself comes from blending sensations from the environment, thoughts, emotions, sight, sound, smells, touch, conversations, events, philosophies, and other elements of what affects human beings into a new whole whether that comes to be a poem, a painting, or a new scientific finding. Therefore the sonneteer draws upon innate creativity and sets out to pour it into a specific language and form.

This intentionality is also present as the sonnet flows from the poet’s pen. Tools like a rhyming dictionary or thesaurus can be helpful. English is not as natural language for rhyming as Italian. There are fewer rhymes available. That’s one of the reasons near rhymes can be useful at times. To avoid a trite singsong quality to the verse the sonneteer also needs to avoid always using a single syllable male rhyme at the end of every line. Multiple syllable, and even alternate feminine/male rhymes, can be useful in creating a more complex music. Enjambment between quatrains, octaves, sestets, or even couplets, as well as alliteration and assonance, can also help in pursuit of a music that breathes and engages the reader.

Iambic pentameter, as has often been pointed out, is the most natural rhythm for language in English. This is not nearly as true in other languages. The Odyssey, A Modern Sequel, an epic masterpiece by Nikos Kazantzakis, written in Greek, has seventeen syllable lines. In Greek it sounds magnificent, although I cannot speak Greek. In English it looks and sounds impressive, but mostly because the lines seem wildly long and filled with a rich, “O sun, great Oriental, my proud mind’s golden cap,” overblown profusion of metaphor, personification, and other figures of speech. Iambic pentameter, with its simple patterns of un-accent, accent, comes much closer to everyday speech.

From the first line on, the sonneteer needs to write lines using Iambic pentameter. I often think in meter on my morning walks with my wife just so that I can use meter without straining when I sit down to write. I also try to listen to the rhythms of speech is people’s voices and listen to the meter I hear. This is not necessary, but one of the most vital rules for writing a good contemporary sonnet is to not use tortured syntax in order to get either the meter or rhyme to work. Practice can help achieve this end whether the practice is in your head or on paper.

Also important, as in all other writing, whether it is an essay, a poem, or a novel, is to mix sentence styles as the sonnet comes into existence. A sonnet can be written using a single sentence, or course, but this can be extremely difficult, especially if the volta is to bring life to what is being written. Sentences, properly constructed, but also varied, are important. They become part of the overall music.

There are exceptions to the mixed sentences rule. Repetition can be a powerful device for building both music and emphasis. One of the great examples is from the King James Bible, Samuel 2, 18:33: “And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Repetition, either words or sentence types, repeating, say, a declarative sentence, if used rarely, can be a powerful literary device.

A sonnet is, in the final analysis, a poem. It involves the right and left hemispheres of the brain, the logical and intuitive spheres. It is derived from a long poetical history that stretches from narrative poetry like Beowulf or the work of Homer to the white goddess incantations of Celtic poets to the innovative work of Hopkins to the genius of William Shakespeare to the contemporary anguish of John Berryman in Berryman’s Sonnets. In some ways the sonneteer is drawing from this history each time they sit down to write. Its form is incidental to that long history. By writing a sonnet the poet is become part of the long flow of poetic history.

Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey wrote the first sonnets in English, using primarily the Italian, Petrarchan, form. Wyatt’s use of iambic pentameter was not as sophisticated as later poets. Henry Howard was smoother and created the English sonnet that later became known as the Shakespearean sonnet. Most early sonnets written in English were lyrics, but the river of poets that followed these pioneers have written narratives, lyrics, and descriptive and didactic poetry. Giacomo da Lentini, a Sicilian, who wrote close to 250 Italian sonnets, was the first person to write a sonnet. Most early sonnets were love poems. Lending itself to compressed intensity, it was, at least at first, considered the perfect medium for the expression of love and passion.

The sonneteer writes a sonnet by sitting down, either at computer or table, and writing one. They write in iambic pentameter, choosing a traditional rhyme scheme or experimenting. They draw upon the nature of their creativity, drawing inspiration from nature or their humanity or their philosophy, becoming a part of the river of sonnet writers that have flowed through literature’s history.

May your sonnet dance like a song, sing the fragrances of lilacs in spring, touch like a lover’s touch under the oval silver of a full moon.

being to timelessness as it’s to time, by e. e. cummings

being to timelessness as it’s to time,
love did no more begin than love will end;
where nothing is to breathe to stroll to swim
love is the air the ocean and the land
(do lovers suffer?all divinities
proudly descending put on deathful flesh:
are lovers glad?only their smallest joy’s
a universe emerging from a wish)
love is the voice under all silences,
the hope which has no opposite in fear;
the strength so strong mere force is feebleness:
the truth more first than sun more last than star
-do lovers love?why then to heaven with hell.
Whatever sages say and fools, all’s well

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Review of The Weirding Storm, A Dragon Epic

The Peninsula Pulse, a publication with a 15,000 circulation, has just posted a review of my book, The Weirding Storm, A Dragon Epic. I am thrilled with Jack Jaeger’s review. The reviews the book has received so far have all been positive. I am so grateful to Bennison Books for publishing it. I was surprised too by the $9.50 price tag, so I am hopeful it’s affordable to an ever-growing audience.

The review is posted online at https://doorcountypulse.com/weirding-storm-dragon-epic-time.

The print copy includes the “Invocation to the Dragon Muse”, which follows epic convention and introduces the story. The online version does not, but I am grateful to all of those who have reviewed it so far on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and in other venues.

What has amazed me is that the reviewers seem to all be picking up on the relationship of the story to the current world. The novelist D.M. Denton and a college instructor from Tennessee, Dana Grams, both noted that relationship as does Jaeger. I thank all of them and am hoping for more reviews to appear. Tom

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Hurricane Harvey, the Governor and President

by Thomas Davis

They sat, the Governor and President,
Before the bristling microphones, the flood
Of waters on the earth, and, as they bent
Catastrophe into the pounding blood
Of prayers full of self-congratulations,
Old people sunk in wheelchairs, their thighs
Beneath the murky waters as, forsaken,
A child clung to its mother–as she dies.

Inside the microphones, great power spoke
And broadcast masks of headlong recklessness
As children cried and scores of parents woke
And saw the water’s rising deadliness.

In wind and water Gaia spoke to those
Whose voices bragged about their glorious woes.

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