The High Window is an important poetry review site dedicated to covering international poetry in Great Britain. The High Window just published a major review by the British poet John Looker, artwork by Ethel Mortenson Davis, and poems from Meditation on Ceremonies of Beginnings published by Tribal College Press, written by Thomas Davis. This is just a stunning issue of the website, at least from where I sit in the universe.
Category Archives: Thomas Davis
All Things That Matter Press have released the cover for my new novel, Apples for the Wild Stallion. This book was written after my daughter, Sonja Bingen, one day remarked to me, while she was starting to read the first Harry Potter book to Joey, our non-verbal autistic grandson, I have really searched for a book that had a character Joey can relate to in his life, but have had trouble finding any. This cover was done by my ATTMP editor, Deb Harris, who based it on a photograph Sonja did on Joey and a brown mare who resembles Brownie, one of the horses, the one Joey rides, in the novel. The novel is set in the Zuni Mountains of New Mexico on Wrangler Road where Ethel, when lived in Continental Divide, did her daily walk with our dogs. The wild, white stallion of the novel’s title changes Joey’s life, but he returns the favor to the stallion in the story.
by Thomas Davis
We drove Grand Mesa’s unpaved, snow-packed roads Around its hairpin curves until the banks Of drifts were high enough to stop the plows. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins slammed Car doors and shouted so their voices echoed off The slopes and cliffs that soared into the sky. Then “food enough to feed an army,” sleds, Toboggans came from car trunks as the day’s Festivity spilled out into the winter cold. My Dad and Uncle dug into the snow To make a fire with driftwood, branches found Down in the canyon as we’d driven by The stream that gurgled songs beneath the ice. Then, looking down the road toward a bank That lurched uphill before a hairpin curve, The oldest of my cousins laughed and jumped Onto her sled, her head downhill, and slid Like lightning flashed into a coal-black sky: The slope so steep she flew, the hill of white A half mile down as solid as a wall, The road beneath her hard and slick as ice. Her mother, Aunt Viola, laughed to see Her fly toward the snowbank wall as I Could hardly breathe to see the tragedy Unfolding as the sunlight glared into my eyes. My eyes began to hurt. She had to crash Or slam into the wall of snow so hard She wouldn’t be my cousin anymore. But, as she hurtled down toward her doom, She dragged her legs behind the racing sled And turned the blades before she hit the hill, And everybody who had come to watch Began to yell when she rolled off the sled, Popped to her feet and shot her arm into the air. When, after other cousins dared the hill, I hesitated, swallowing to see The downhill slope, my younger brother jumped Ahead of me and joined into the fun. I stood above my sled and felt my heart Quail, staring down toward the distant bank That still seemed solid as a concrete wall. I froze and couldn’t move until my Dad, Behind me, got me on my sled and pushed Me off as cold and snow and light became A blur of flying, flying down the road. I flared my legs behind the hurtling sled And tried to slow down as I turned the blades, The running sound beneath my stomach, snow A cloud of ice as I rolled off the sled And came up, sunk in snow up to my hips, And shouted with my arm up in the air.
by Thomas Davis
I woke with his face still in my head, a handsome young man who looked something like the oil drilling roustabout who had lived next to my parent’s house when I was a kid rough around the edges with startling blue eyes. When he spoke, though, his voice was like the classical music on vinyl records I bought as a teenager when I wasn’t listening to Simon and Garfunkel or a country and western star my parents really liked. “He won’t be like most people expect,” he’d said in the dream. “He’ll come out of a tower as opulent, and filled with human hubris, as the Tower of Babel, shining even when no sun is in the sky, and when he speaks, great throngs will gather even though pestilence is raging, and their shouting and adulation will stir winds spreading disease and fan it into the most remote parts of the land. “He won’t drive around in a beat up, old pickup like many of his followers, but will sail in a huge, black limousine fancier than most people’s houses, and he’ll use grievance and insult to stir masses that march to Sunday church where they worship a humble man, who championed the poor and downtrodden and said fat cats had as much chance getting into heaven as a rich man had of getting a camel through a needle’s eye. “And as pestilence spreads and poverty grows out of pestilence, dissension and intolerance will enter into people’s spirits, and chaos will churn into an earth beset by destructive storms, floods, droughts, and great forests burning, spawning tornadoes of flames, disasters creating wailing and despair even as the ocean rises and voices speaking prophetic warnings can barely be heard above endless tumult. “O, he won’t be dressed in red or have horns or a pointed tail. He’ll wear expensive suits and act like a common man with a whirlwind voice singing resentment and anger and the exquisite joys and promise of human greed.” As I woke up the man, looking nothing like an angel, smiled, and I felt disoriented, wondering if I was waking up, or was trapped, somehow, in a continuing dream’s fog.
Tribal College Press has launched Meditation on Ceremonies of Beginnings! The book went up on their site, https://tribalcollegejournal.org/buy-meditation-on-ceremonies-of-beginnings, yesterday. I have emphasizing the Tribal College Press site for purchases because any purchase here goes to help the tribal college movement out through work that the Tribal College Journal does with all of the colleges.
To me, at least, this is the most important book I have ever written, as accidental as it is in some senses. It represents decades of work for all the tribal colleges and specifically for the colleges that I worked directly for over much of my life. Imbedded in the book also are all the sacrifices Ethel and my children, Sonja, Mary, and Kevin, made during the years when I was working so hard to make so many things happen of American Indian communities and students in individual communities and nationwide. I also want to celebrate Ethel’s magnificent pastel the press used for the cover.
I received my first copy of the finished book at the house yesterday, and I was surprised at how much emotion it generated in me. The tribal colleges and universities and international indigenous controlled institutions of higher learning are so important! All of us need to reach out, if we are not American Indian people, to the original people of this land and celebrate them and feel the power of what they and their communities have to offer the world. I hope that in the pages of this book of poetry both Indians and non-Indians can find the spirit of the tribal colleges and universities and then become inspired to support them in some concrete way. They are still among the poorest funded colleges and universities in this country even though they are doing God’s work in some of the poorest places in the United States.
Meditations on the Ceremonies of Beginnings is a book of poetry developed over decades as I played my small role in the tribal colleges and universities and world indigenous nation’s higher education consortium movements. Tribal College Press has announced it will be released in late November. The cover design just came in! The drawing is by Ethel Mortenson Davis.
You’ll have to enlarge to cover to read the writing, but I am especially excited about what Carrie Billy, one of the great leaders of the tribal college and university movement, and Kimberly Blaeser, on the most important Native American poets in the United States, say about the book.
by Thomas Davis The virus raging as so many elders die and young people party, drinking into laugher, risking brains that swell with fevers, mini-strokes, hallucinations that skew apart their world; The economy collapsing into unemployment as bread lines form like they did in the Great Depression, hollow eyes looking at the world with despair even as social distancing, safety is an impossibility as you stand in line, hungry and afraid; The video of a black man saying, “I can’t breathe” twenty times as a white policeman kneels on his neck, hearing him calling for his mother out of his terror, exploding into a nation’s consciousness the history of white robes and hoods, the spasm of confederate statues trying desperately to rewrite the history of military and social loss, the Trail of Tears, a President throwing paper towels as Puerto Rico mourns destroyed homes, flooded lives, spirits concentrated by a hurricane to rows of graves; The teetering of democracy as black, brown, Asian, Native people stand in lines for hours to vote in rain storms, intense heat, cold as sanctimonious voices praise the Lord and American exceptionalism and celebrate cages on the border where children, separated forcibly from their parents, cry, and a flush-faced leader claims he is the One, the only one who can solve the problems he has helped intensify; Then the ecosystems’ warnings as Antarctica glaciers melt, song birds cease to sing, the Amazon Forest burns and shrinks from year to year, migrations from wars, starvation, ethnic rage, dictatorial triumph put words in politician’s mouths that celebrate how great their country, party is; and then the greed that celebrates the rich selling snake oil: Come, give us tax breaks, roads, communication networks, robots that feed our wealth-making machines — rescue us when our venality threatens our prosperity as the virus rages, the middle class collapses, small business people fail, poor families lose their homes, the homeless starve, mental health deteriorates, people march for justice, the great extinctions of insects, plants, fish, all living things grows ever more deadly to the long-term health of the world and humankind, and greed demands the glorification of greed as the solution to the problems greed creates. I name the crises. The question is, what do we, as human beings, do now?
I received news that Phil Hanisota had passed away a few days ago. I mostly knew Phil as a poet, but his gentleness and intellect as a brilliant medical researcher and a man who was always helping others around the world, had an enormous impact on my life. I miss him fiercely.
by Thomas Davis
Some souls walk through this life, their eyes so bright with all the good inside humanity that gentleness is who they are, their light a breath, a song that pulses ceaselessly into the restlessness of humankind, the anger, rage, hate, glory, love, and hope that layers through our relatives and winds into eternity’s kaleidoscope, and though we smile and joke and gently laugh to see them as they age into our days, we never sense the coming choreograph that lets us know that time is just a phase that passes as we contemplate a soul that touched our lives and helped to make us whole.
Ethel and I were at my daughter Sonja’s house. She, Ethel, and Joey, our non-verbal autistic grandson, were sitting in the living room talking about the difficulty Sonja was having dealing with Joey’s new high school. Then, looking wistful, Sonja said something to the effect that she had been looking for books that Joey could relate to where the hero was like him. She’d only been able to find one book that sort of was like that, she told Ethel and I. Looking at him, with him paying attention to what she was saying, she said that you’re smart enough to learn, aren’t you Joey.
Afterward I got to thinking about what Sonja was saying. A little after that I sat down to start a novel about a non-verbal autistic boy who is a hero. The writing did not go well at first. The first chapter, reviewed for me by Sonja and Emma MacKenzie, a writer friend, was pretty bad. But, as usual, I kept at it. Ethel kept encouraging me. The result was a novel, Apples for the Wild Stallion. Ethel gave me the title name.
Yesterday All Things That Matter Press sent me a publishing contract for Apples for the Wild Stallion. It always takes awhile between signing the contract and actual publication, but I’ll be especially happy to see this particular novel in print.
The truth is that human beings all have different abilities and gifts. Humans are so good at discrimination, as the events in Minneapolis right now so painfully illustrate, but the truth is that Joey is a marvelous human being. When he smiles Ethel and I feel like the sun is coming out after days of rain. He is worth paying attention to and loving. He is a hero, like so many of the people who face terrible discrimination in their lives. He deserves praise, not the looks he and his family get when they go to a restaurant, and his arm goes up or his head shakes in a way that makes some of those eating in that place uncomfortable.
So, this novel is for Joey, and, in a sense, for all of those like Joey who have lives that are important in spite of the small ideas in other people’s heads.
On a Day When 100,000 People Had Died, A Black Man was Murdered in Minneapolis, and War Continued to Rage
by Thomas Davis
In Syria babies are starving
even as vultures circle in the sky
looking at extended bellies
that are empty.
As helicopters thunder overhead
bombs explode, and who wins?
The vultures? Those doing the bombing?
The starving child? The starving child’s parents
who revolted for what they thought
was a chance for a better life?
The virus obliterating
the wisdom people once thought
Insects are dying out all over the world.
Is this humankind’s wisdom?
Was Kafka right? Are we all insects after all?