pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis
pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis
Standing Feather, who, along with John Looker over in Great Britain, is one of the greatest of contemporary poets, sent a special email to Ethel Mortenson Davis the other day. He sent a poem, “Mariposa,” which is, in effect, a companion poem to Ethel’s poem, “Circles,” which was published in her book, White Ermine Across Her Shoulders” in 2011. They are both magnificent works of art. Standing Feather’s new poem is presented first, followed by Ethel’s older work:
New Mexico is full of dirt roads
that snake around sandstone mesas
and then straighten into vast expanses
before reaching any stop signs or pavement.
From the mesa tops you can see old trucks
rambling along the valley floor,
making dust that blows sideways
across stretching generations of rocks and people.
There is nothing like riding passenger
in an old truck, and as a child
I set the pace of my life
by Uncle Pink’s ‘66 Ford.
I knew the inner workings of the beast
from my years jockeying on the cracked leather seat.
The power of the vibrations climbed my spine
and rolled from my crown in great waves.
Youth’s wine-filled days are gone.
Today I stopped along a dirt road
to accept an invitation from the mariposa lilies.
Their power to stay rooted while waving in the spring wind
is like old trucks. Both offer rugged simplicity
to compliment the density of the rocks above.
I must be moving on. Remembering Aunt Ethel,
I crank my windows down to listen for the song of the meadowlarks.
Standing Feather 4-19
When I drive
through the desert,
I keep the windows rolled down
and usually hear a few notes
from the meadow lark.
New Mexico is full of bird life.
This morning, after last night’s shower,
I heard the clicks
of the Rufus hummingbird
through my car’s open window-
a metallic pinging sound-
like electric highline wires make
when you stand under them.
The hummingbird kisses
the delicate circuits
of the eco-systems.
In the north
the snowmobiles run
the gray wolf to exhaustion.
Once the gray wolf
was chased with dog sleds
and had a chance
The wolf bites at his body
where the bullet enters,
shattering his flesh and bone,
shattering the delicate circles of life.
Ethel Mortenson Davis 2011
by Ethel Mortenson Davis
saw under bridges,
off Main Street,
saw back rooms
and knew about
the old man up the road.
We, as daughters,
were put under bushel baskets
like the new fragile plants
you set out and cover up,
protecting them from freezing nights.
We didn’t see
the people living in crates
under the bridges,
the beatings and stabbings
in the alleys off Main Street
in our small town,
the women used
in back rooms behind the bars,
the wife of the old man up the road
who went on a trip,
but never returned home.
Poetry Breakfast, an online journal of poetry, has an international audience. One of the best poets in Great Britain, John Looker, told Ethel and I that he used to read it almost every day. Poetry Breakfast’s Editor, Ann Kestner, took off some time in a sabbatical, but now she and the journal are back. Ethel’s poem, “The Wind”, is up this morning, May 1. The link to a wonderful everyday journal and Ethel’s poem is below:
A great idea is to subscribe to the Poetry Breakfast blog and then spend breakfast every once in awhile reading out loud the poem of the day with your coffee.
When Ethel and I traveled to New Mexico in February, I worked at Navajo Technical Univerity’s (NTU) campus three days a week while Ethel stayed in our small RV at the Ancient Way Cafe near the El Morro National Monument. At NTU Christine Reidhead, who is the head of the baccalaureate program in Business, and April Chischilly, an Assistant Professor and long-term NTU employee, got me to agree to do podcasts about the tribal college movement.
I was totally unprepared even though Christine has, for some time, threatened to write my biography. She refuses to understand that I am not important enough to have a biography written and is absolutely persistent. When she dragged out and set up this array of equipment she had purchased out of a tribal college salary to do the podcast, I was not only shocked, but felt like I should cooperate.
The introduction that Christine did to the series is more than a little exaggerated. I am in no way a legend, and though I was around the TCU movement early in its formation, primarily through my association with Helen Scheirbeck, my claim to fame would not be as a pioneer, or founder of the movement, but as someone who was lucky enough in life to walk with the giants that created what I would consider one of the most significant educational movements of the 20th and early 21st century. I tried to get Christine to change the introduction to the series, but she just laughed at me and said she loved it.
I thought I’d post all of the podcasts here, one at a time. I am hopeful, even though they are off the cuff and a little rambling, they might have some historical value. I am, in the end, grateful to Christine and April for tying me down to a project that I would never have contemplated on my own.
Since I know nothing about podcasts, I should note that the first one seems to have been sped up in some way while the second one is not that way at all. Still, this has been interesting. The link to Christine’s work is below:
Others will follow over the next month or so.
Not long before our son, Kevin Davis, Alazanto, died of cancer, he traveled to Paris and did several photographs of the city. This is his photograph of Notre Dame, a memory after today’s fire. A double kind of memory for Ethel and I. He was an extraordinary web designer, photographer, artist, and poet. The burning of Notre Dame creates a hole in the spirit of our humanity.
a repost by Ethel Mortenson Davis
came from there,
people that did extraordinary
things with their lives
and did amazing things
in the world.”
That place is
in the high desert mountains
where there is a crisscrossing
of invisible lines.
“Our ancients said,
‘This is the center of the earth,
where creation started,
where you and I became,”
a no-nothing place
of mud and rock
and pinion trees,
where the sky is a color
of blue . . .
like no other
in the whole universe.