Category Archives: Thomas Davis

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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Four Windows Press re-Releases Salt Bear

I wrote a novel for young adults, 9-14 and up, a long time ago. It was completely sold out, so Four Windows Press is re-releasing it. I am hoping some of the followers of this blog might consider purchasing it in amazon or at their favorite local bookstore.

Salt Bear is a story taken from the mythology of the American west. It is filled with mythological animals such as salt bear, jackalopes, cactus bucks, blind ravens, a snow owl, bears, and an evil mountain lion. At a recent WFOP meeting I was informed by a young attendee that it was one of his very favorite books ever. I’ve had quite a few young people tell me that since its first release.

The wild tale begins:

Salt Bear did not like the idea. Not one little bit.
Buddy, a jackalope, one of Salt Bear’s best friends, had started calling him George.
“Salt Bear’s a kind of bear,” Buddy had explained when he first started using George. “It’s not a name.”
“But why George?” Salt Bear had asked. “That doesn’t fit a salt bear. Why not Salty?” He brightened up. “That could be a good name for a salt bear.”
Buddy had scratched behind his right pronghorn just above his big, floppy ear. He looked like a jackrabbit. His brownish-pink nose was set off by a handsome set of whiskers, and he had powerful hind legs. Two slender black horns stuck out of his head above his ears.
“Salty’s a name for a bird,” he had said scornfully. “Besides, I would have liked to have been called George. Not Buddy.”
Salt Bear had shaken his gleaming white fur, and then blinked tan eyes in bewilderment. For a bear he was small, although he was full grown. He stood a little over three feet high. . .

I’m pretty sure you might remember the excitement you had reading The Wind in the Willows, Watership Down, or the Redwall books. I certainly had an enormous amount of fun writing the tale down.

Salt Bear Cover.jpg

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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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Navajo Technical University Project

One of the projects I have been working on, along with a lot of other people, has been a new educational model centered on the Bond Wilson Technical Center in Kirtland, NM.  Kathy Isaacson, who has been key to helping put the project together, created this video of the project.  I appear in it toward the end of the video.

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Filed under Essays, Thomas Davis

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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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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In Edgewood’s Orchard

Terza Rima Sonnet

by Thomas Davis

As dip-si-doodled as a particle
Inside the zipping universal whiz,
I stretched into a rusty horse and peered
At cultured woods that felt the guttural,
Mute roaring of a monster’s metal fizz
That jawed into a garden’s winsome weird.

Then, as an old farm’s walls grew images,
And glass shapes whirled with colored curves of light,
I felt creation’s fires congeal and mold
Into a spirit drawn from circuses
Born from the striving of an artist’s flight
Through zoos of sight, sound, thoughts, the manifold
Of what could be if chaos suddenly
Became a rusty horse whose eyes can see.

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