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a pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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The Framing

In Memoriam Kevin Michael Davis

Doors at Chaco Canyon photograph by Kevin Davis (2/16/1982 – 7/21/2010)

The Framing” a poem by Richard Brenneman

This is the anniversary of our son’s death in Poughkeepsie, New York from cancer ten years ago. This is always a sad day for Ethel, I, and our daughters, Sonja Bingen and Mary Wood, every year. This blog was started in honor of Kevin, who was a wonderful web designer, photographer, artist, and poet. This year we are publishing one of Kevin’s most iconic photographs, a doorway found at the Chaco Canyon ruins in New Mexico, and Richard Brenneman’s wonderful poem about the photograph, remembering someone who was deeply, deeply loved.

THE FRAMING

by Richard Brenneman

Ekaphrastic poem celebrating the Kevin Davis photograph,  “Doors at Chaco Canyon”  

 I
 
Picture this --
seen through the lens of a camera;
eye sighting perfectly this line of sight, 
image remaining after.
The photographer has entered into
this, his picture.
 
A framing frames the ancient remains,
frame within frame like stone ghosts
from the living to the not living.
 
II
 
During the day, the doors,
like sideways viewed Chinese boxes, point the way
to the sky, or a blank wall
where the lords of death
(or alternatively, the lords of life)
are lodged beyond, whether
in kiva, hogan, teepee,
pyramid -- the mountain of gods.
 
III
 
At night invisible,
you can barely see the framed gates.
Above, the moonlight,
a few stars shine bright:
Polaris, Sirius, Aldebaran.
The gods of old-time
have come for you --
you who framed this image.
Time into framing,
gate, window, doorway --
starlight seeps out
light from unseen life
in sunrise or twilight,
you who sighted this
in your view finder.
 
IV
 
If we look at this image askew,
we can almost see you as shadow,
invisible among
the dust motes, the whirling dervishes
slipping through the frame of time,
the ancient gateways
to join the lords of life, of death
to ascend timeless, bodiless
to the stars,
to become framed
as infinite starshine.

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Flicker

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

At dawn
a loud crash
sounded against the house.
A flicker lay struggling
on the ground,
his life ending.
 
A beautiful bird
with speckled chest,
yellow tail,
and red feathers
on his head
looked as though
his spine was broken.
 
I put him in a quiet
part of the garden.
His weak cries were fearful.
 
Later that day,
when I checked,
he seemed closer to death.
 
The next morning
when I went to collect him,
he was gone.
 
I want to think
he got up and flew
up to the top of my tree,
but probably a cat or fox
found him on their trek
across the country.

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I Name the Crises

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?

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The Seer

a pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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To Phil Hanisota, My Friend

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.

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Tribal College History Podcasts Continue, No. 10

The latest podcast from the Tribal College Journal and Christine Reidhead about the tribal college movement has just been put up at https://tribalcollegejournal.org/our-history-memories-of-the-tribal-college-movement-podcast-10 In this podcast about the tribal college movement I talk about two legendary figures, Lionel Bordeaux, the Dean of Tribal College Presidents, and Martha McLeod, the founding President of Bay Mills Community College in Northern Michigan.

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To the Innocent

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

To Troy Davis

I hope you are
in a place
where there is justice,
 
where there is love
unconditionally,
the end
 
where young men
no longer are lynched
by ropes,
or the machinations of killers,
 
where there is light
and not the suffocating,
ethered mud,
 
a place where you will
rise above humanness.
 
I hope you are in a place
called Justice,
a place that will never be named
Georgia.
 

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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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