George Floyd

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

We saw how bad
the killing is
in this country.
 
But the many more
we did not see —
children, women, and men
in far away, hidden places,
unknown towns,
and mud-filled swamps.
 
No one recorded
their cries for help.
Their blood
has filled our land —
up to the withers of our horses,
touching the white wings
of angels.

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Oriole at the Backyard Feeder

a photograph by Sonja Bingen

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Unfurrowing

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The unfurrowing
of new leaves
is like a carefully
synchronized orchestra
with each musician
in exact harmony.
 
But we do not stand
and applaud.
 
Only Oriole gets up
and sings his splendid song,
dressed in brightly colored
vestments.

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All Things That Matter Press Offers a New Contract

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.

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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
elders had?

Insects are dying out all over the world.
Is this humankind’s wisdom?
Was Kafka right? Are we all insects after all?

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What Happens When You Get Old?

by Thomas Davis

Afraid, Grandma started talking
about the two weeping willows in her back yard.
When the wind blows they move around
and make complaining noises, she said.
She said she was waking up late at night
and hearing them moving around in the dark.

In her early seventies she still loved
gardening and growing flowers.
Her long row of red and pink peonies
beside her driveway’s black cinders,
usually covered with crawling ants,
bloomed all spring and summer.
After she and Grandpa George had built their adobe house
putting earth-bricks together by hand,
she’d planted climbing rose bushes,
creating a rose arch in front of the front door.

Later, behind the willows she’d planted
after snipping twigs off a massive tree
growing beside her favorite fishing hole
at Schweitzer Lake and sprouting white roots in a glass jar,
she started a garden with concord grape vines,
strawberries, sweet corn, sugar beets, potatoes, lettuce, green beans,
and tomatoes bigger than tomatoes ought to be.
During late fall days, before the cold came,
she spent hours, florid face red and sweating,
putting the year’s harvest in mason jars.

When she finally let the garden go
after getting a job at Goodwill downtown,
the willows started worrying her.
She complained about them as if she thought
they were angry at her the way her neighbor was.

He claimed that when she and George
had built their house in the poor part of Delta
they’d put their porch and cellar
six inches into land he purchased a decade later.

Finally, one night when she couldn’t sleep,
she went out and tried to chop the tallest willow down
with a rusty axe from the coal shed.
When she discovered she’d grown too old
to manage that in the middle of the night,
she called an old man she’d known for sixty years
and had him chop down both willows
“for firewood to feed his wood stove.”

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Gaia’s Song and Wisconsin People and Ideas

Thomas Davis

One of my favorite publications has, for a long time, been Wisconsin People and Ideas. For the first time the Editor, Jason Smith, has had to work with the Wisconsin Academy to put it out virtually rather than in printed form.

I hope it returns to its printed format soon, but I and a lot of other good poets have poems in this issue: https://www.wisconsinacademy.org/sites/wisconsinacademy.org/files/WPI_Spring2020_F.pdf

Wisconsin People and Ideas has a poetry contest every year, and the best poets in the state compete for the honor of appearing in the magazine.

My poem, “Gaia’s Song,” is on pg. 49. Door County poet Estella Lauter also has a poem in this issue as does Ethel’s and my good friend, Nathan Reid. These poems all won Honorable Mention in the poetry competition.

Of special note also is an article by Jude Genereaux of Door County about the Lac Courtes Oreilles Ojibwe radio station, WOJB. When, a long time ago now, I was President at Lac Courtes Oreilles Ojibwe Community College we had a close relationship to a radio station that was truly a different drummer in Northern Wisconsin.

I hope people will check out this issue and, just as importantly, join the Wisconsin Academy! It represents the intellectual capital so abundant in this state.

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All That Is Left

The primeval forest at the Toft Point Preserve

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Underneath
undisturbed giant trees,
beneath the soil,
the mycelial web—
a fungi galaxy of life,
connects all the trees
together,
one species next
to the other for a reason—
a dependency for life.

Lichens drape
the forest floor,
even over the fallen trees,
covering them
with a green blanket.

Tree trunks grown
for four or five hundred years
climb into the clouds.
My heart seems to grow
at least as tall.

A bird’s song
I do not recognize,
plants I cannot identify.

The air thick with oxygen
and the icy breath
of a thousand Wisconsin winters
gathers around our ankles
as we stand in a primeval forest
on a small finger of land—

all that is left.

Note: Based on the scientific discoveries described by Peter Wholleben in The Hidden Life of Trees.

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You

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

You came to tell me
this morning
that he was gone,

but last night
when the dread came
and overwhelmed me,
I knew.

You see, love
transcends space and time.

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The Rite of Spring

photograph by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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