Category Archives: Thomas Davis

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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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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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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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