Tag Archives: children


by Ethel Mortenson Davis

As children
we don’t forgive
our parents.

As parents
we forgive
our children,

opening up
one of the back rooms,
sweeping up
the dust,

making room
again for you.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry, Uncategorized

How Hard

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

We talked about children,
their schooling,
their boyfriends.
How they are becoming
serious about their relationships.

We talked about children
becoming people.
How hard it is.

We talked about
how hard creating
a new piece of art is.

How much energy
the making of art takes —
an extraordinary piece of art.

How hard that is:
Like the yellow orchid
in the forest this morning
among the blue waters.
How hard the earth struggled
to bring about that flower:

Like my ancestors
that were sailors,
sailing to other lands —
among the blue waters —

how hard.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry


by Ethel Mortenson Davis

They were both
hanging by threads,
trying to hold together,
talking to people:
Lost yet another child–

But those threads
will widen,
grow strong
when they decide to live
for the living–

like the herd of deer at dusk
we saw
when we drove
back across the white frozen fields

in a clearing,
on the side of a steep hill,
clinging to threads
in a trampled field
surrounded by deep winter snows.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry


I wonder what our families
would have been
had the older brother
taken the younger
into his heart,
protecting him,
helping him?

Had the older sister
loved the younger.
taking the difficult choices
with her?

What would the products
of these families,
the children—us—
have been to each other?

Would we have wanted
To destroy each other?


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

Daughters and Sons

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

I remember
when our daughters
became “a certain age”
and left us—
not just in a physical way,
but from our hearts as well.

I was sure this was what
raising children was about—
children leave you at a certain age,
never to return.

But they did return and
made that full circle
back to us, but
with “certain stipulations.”

Our son left,
came back,
then left again,

We thought he would
never return,
but he did again
at his death:

Came back full circle
to say, I need you both.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

Star Songs

a children’s poem by Thomas Davis written for Sonja and Mary when they were young

There was a song that I once heard
When I was very, very young.
I heard the songs of bright night stars
Cold singing in a silent tongue.

There’s no one else within the world
Who heard their silver lullabye,
But now I’m telling you, my loves:
Go out and listen to the sky!


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

Love Story

by Thomas Davis

For Ethel

The golden eagle, dark brown against deep blue of late spring sky,
Hovered, wings adjusting to wind currents.
In the cool canyon, beneath the ancient cottonwood tree
With its streaked white trunk,
Beside the stream shrinking from spring’s fullness,
We sat next to our picnic blanket.
The eagle dipped, then soared into a great arc
Toward, then over, sandstone canyon walls
Where years of rain had flowed over the canyon rim
And stained rock as it fell to where it fed the stream below.
That day was not our beginning.
Our beginning was in letters chained from Wisconsin to Colorado
As never-met poets began to explore what might come to be.

Where my poetry raged with fumbling working toward form,
Your poetry burned on the page,
Words boiled into images.
But in Unaweep Canyon on a day that seemed like it should last forever
We talked and began weaving invisible bonds
That show no signs of weakening
As we leave middle age and become elders
Visited by the pains of age and wear of time.
The moments of our lives together tremble,
Like the golden eagle’s wings:

Days spent learning the intensity of each other
As we walked Orchard Mesa’s huddled foothills,
The moon rising so deep an orange it was almost red,
Growing larger and larger
As it labored over the Prussian blue rim of Grand Mesa;
Tears coming to your eyes when you singed
The wedding dress you worked weeks to make
On the night before our wedding;
The long drive to Washington State’s Anacortes Island,
Possessions piled on top of an old car,
As we searched for life–
And then the even longer drive to Wisconsin
As we traveled over mountains,
Through orchards and fields of crops, deep into forests, across plains
Until we came, at last, to Lake Superior shining sunlight.

Then the birth of Sonja, Mary, and Kevin.
Tense waiting at hospitals
Until finally the joy of new life explodes;
The loneliness of a hospital room at night
While Mary struggles for breath inside a clear plastic bubble
As doctors fight an illness that seems to last forever;
The day when Kevin convulses
As doctors and nurses rush into his room
And force us into the hallway scared at not understanding.
Days spent walking to Lake Winnebago
Dragging a red wagon behind us
With Sonja talking ceaselessly while one,
Then the other, carries Mary in our arms.
The years of school and the search for a teaching job
Until, at last, we end up in a small Midwestern town
Working in an alternative school on the Menominee Reservation.

Life fills up with the details of living,
Moments of emotion:
Joy, anger, frustration, desperation, hope, sadness, grief, laughter,
A flowing that stretches into a landscape of bends and rocks and hills.

When we moved to Wisconsin Dells into the Gold Mine House
With its basement field stone floor and huge fireplaces,
Bald eagles sat with white heads and brown backs and breasts
Nearly every morning during winter and spring
In trees along the Wisconsin River,
Snow falling as one or another took wing off its pine perch
And soared into cold to look for open water.

A poem, or a hundred poems, cannot give life to either life or love.
Marriage begins, and time passes;
Children are born, and time passes;
Jobs are won or lost, and time passes;
Daughters and a son run through a million minutes
Of motion and meaning, and time passes;
Grandchildren are born and become blessings, and time passes…

Our lives spark against each other,
Spiraling out like skiers I remember one night in Aspen, Colorado
Who came down black mountains slopes
Carrying torches that glided and wove,
Suspended high above where I was standing, in the night sky.

And inside the passing of time a golden eagle still hovers above us
Beside a small stream
That sings as it flows over small shelves of sandstone
Until one morning we wake, and you grind fair trade coffee beans,
And we sit before a fire in the fireplace in New Mexico
That you say is good for our souls,
And we deal with the pains in your knee and my back,

And we try to understand each other
In the way we have always tried to understand each other,
Braiding our lives through moments when we are together.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis


by Ethel Mortenson Davis

When will we take
half the earth and stars
Stand up and protect
the children,
the animals
and the earth?

When will we take back
Our God?
Our Mother?


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

12. Weaving and Dragon Song

by Thomas Davis

Ruanne sat by the small triangle window,
The morning light a comfort past the storm.
She pumped the small wood loom and fed the strands
Of hair from mountain sheep into the shuttle,
Her hands in constant rhythm as she wove
Each row of heavy cloth into a rug
That metamorphosed howling winds and clouds.

She tried to concentrate upon the wisdom
Of Selen who, upon her loom, had woven
The weaving of a man and woman’s flesh
So human love could populate the world,
But all her efforts skittered like the beads
Of bear grease on a blazing, black iron pan.
Thoughts turned to images: Ruarther caught
By madness, storming from her life to wilderness,
Snow fields a glittering in morning light.

A knocking broke into her reverie.
She deftly tied the weaving so the row
Of gray and blue would stay in place for later,
Got up, and greeted Reestor at the door.
The old man looked pale, weary in the light,
His deep eyes ringed below white eyebrows sweeping
Toward white hair that covered half his forehead.
She smiled and stood aside to let him stomp
Into the cottage, cold around him biting
Into the room warm from the morning fire.

“You’re early for your rounds,” she said, her sadness
Surprising her inside her too soft voice.

Inside his heavy coat he looked more like
A bear than just a man, she thought. A wildness clung
To all the men who hunted for the game
That let the village live through winter storms.
She wondered if she ought to leave her cottage
And make the journey to the nearest town.
Ruarther was the one who’d kept her here.

But now? She smiled as Reestor growled as if
He truly was a bear. He shrugged his coat
Off shoulders strengthened by the years he’d spent
Outdoors before they’d made him village leader.
He walked toward the fire, put out his hands,
Then turned to look into her dark green eyes.

“I saw my father and my brother die,” he said.
“I didn’t live here then. I moved here later–
When Mother couldn’t stand the thought of Breenan.
Two dragons came upon the town all fire.
You seldom saw more than a single dragon then.
My father took his great long bow and hit
The older dragon, Pphhitin, in his one good eye.
The younger, Mmirimann, went wild
His breath so hot it fired the town’s wood roofs;
His claws sent dozens to their early graves.

“The great green brute not only burned our house,
But Mmirimann flung down upon my father,
The dragon killer, scorching flesh with fire.
He left the body black as smoky quartz,
So burned light seemed translucent through
The skull left bare without a shred of flesh.
The smell still visits me at night sometimes.
My brother tried to drive a metal spear
In Mmirimann, but didn’t have the strength.
The dragon swatted him away and speared
A broken rib into his young man’s heart.”

Ruanne stood silent, waiting. Reeston looked
At memories he’d long ago suppressed.
He suddenly looked up into her eyes.

“I don’t like kings,” he said. “The rich men live
Rich lives while those of us who find survival
In places where the rich would never live
Develop bonds much stronger than privation,
But Clayton’s Peace has given us good lives.
No human, or a dragon’s, died from war
For nearly all the years I’ve lived. But now…”

Ruanne still did not speak, but waited, spirit
So taut it seemed as if she ought to scream.

“We see more dragons in the sky each year,”
He said at last. “They have evolved, and we
Are still the humans that we’ve always been.
Ruarther’s craziness will stir their hearts
And bring about rage we have never faced.”

Ruanne let out the breath she’d held too long.
She shook her head. “I know,” she said. “But what?”
She paused. “The witch’s daughter shouldn’t die.
The children in the village shouldn’t face
The rage of dragon fire and raking claws.”

Determined, Reestor looked at her. “You know
The Dragon Songs,” he said. “You’ve heard them sung
Inside your head. You have to let them know
Ruarther’s left our village, lost his mind…”

“I’ve never said I hear the songs,” Ruanne said softly.

“I see it in your eyes, the way you shine inside,”
The old man said. “I’ve lived too long a life.
I hardly sleep, but still, you’re like the witch’s child.”

His words struck like a blow. She was a witch?

“Ruarther’s left me all alone,” Ruanne said.
“I’ve loved him since we both were children… babes…”

“He’s gone, Ruanne. You’ve got to let him go.”

“I’ve never spoken to a dragon, never…
They’ll never answer me… they’ll never hear…”

“You’ve got to try. The children don’t deserve
To die because Ruarther caused a war
That humans cannot hope to ever win.”

Ruanne escaped from Reestor’s burning eyes
And looked at where she’d sat upon the loom.
She shook her head. What could she really do?
She said a silent prayer to sagacious Selen.
She’d always forced the dragon’s songs away.
She was her mother’s child, not witch’s sister.
She’d known the mountain witch, but never once
Felt like they had a bond of flesh or blood…
She looked at Reestor, panic in her eyes.
She talked to dragons, villagers would drive
Her into wilderness, hate’s refugee.

The village children couldn’t die, not if
She had abilities that might protect them.
The old man looked past eyes into her heart.

Audio of Weaving and Dragon Song

Note: This is the twelfth installment of a long poem. Inspired by John Keats’ long narrative poem, Lamia, it tells a story set in ancient times when dragons and humans were at peace. Click on the numbers to reach other sections, or go to the Categories box to the right under The Dragon Epic. Click on 1 to go to the beginning and read forward. Go to 11 to read the section before this one. Click1 13 to go forward to the next section.


Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis

9. Ruarther’s Threat

by Thomas Davis

As Reestor glared at him, Ruarther felt
As if he’d turned to stone, his spirit hard
And eyes as cold as when the wall of ice
Had overtaken him inside the field.

“We’ve been at peace with dragons much too long
To start a war with them,” the old man said.
“You’re dreaming’s not enough to have them fly
Above us as their breaths chars all we love.”

“It was no dream,” Ruarther growled, his temper blazing.
“The dragon singed me with her stream of fire!
We have to kill the witches’ girl, or else
The world will change in ways that weird us all!”

Ruanne, disoriented, looked at her only love.
He’d kill the child? She’d dreamed of having children
Since childhood, playing with her handmade dolls.
What child had powers strong enough to cause
Grown men to quail before their unlived lives?
She tried to see inside Ruather’s rage
And understand what fear was driving him.
A hundred times she’d thought she’d earned his love,
But every time he’d danced away from her.

“Why do you meld the dragon with the child?”
A stubborn Reestor asked, eyes fixed on rage.
The man was weak yet, still affected by
The storm he’d barely made it through to home.

Around them half the village stood inside
The hall, the argument a bane when winter
Was harsh enough to threaten all of them
If they could not depend on long-term braids
To knit their wills together as they strove
To live until the distant, longed-for spring.

“The dragon spoke about the child,” Ruarther spat.
“Why wouldn’t they be linked? She spoke of her.
If not from spelling by the witch’s child,
Why would a dragon speak again to men?”

Old Molly grasped Ruanne’s slim hand and hissed.
“You’re young, young man,” she said. “Your blood runs hot
Or else you would have known what good is yours.
You’re foolish. In the past we fought the dragons,
And many died, but then the dragons seldom
Attacked unless they were alone, but now
They have communities just like this place.
If stirred, they’ll come together in a pack.”

Ruanne felt like she ought to scream the swirl
Of roiling feelings trapped inside her chest.

“The storm is done,” Ruarther said. “I’ll go.
It doesn’t matter what the village thinks.
I see the danger rising in a cloud,
and like I’ve brought back game when others failed,
I’ll save the village from temerity.
The weirding’s got to stop. The girl is dead.”

Ruanne heard children screeching in the snow.
The storm was over. Now they’d laugh and sing
As if the awful winds and cold had never been.
Inside her mind she felt the dragons flying
In multi-colored packs, an endless stream
Of fire and deadly claws out of their caves.

“I’m leader still. Not you, not yet. You won’t
Go up the mountain,” Reestor said. “We need
More meat. The hunters have to hunt for game.”

Ruarther glared at him. He glanced at Brand.
The hunter looked away as if he heard
His young ones as they worked to dig a path
Between the cottages through feet of snow.
At last Brand looked into Ruarther’s eyes.

“No hunter has your strength or skill,” he said.
“You need to throw your madness out and be
The leader that you’ve always been for us.”

“Nobody understands,” Ruarther said,
His bitterness a rancor in his voice.
“Nobody felt the heat of dragon flame.”
He turned and looked toward the hall’s great door.
He looked at Reestor. “I have always done
What’s good for all of us,” he said. “I’m certain
Deep down that what I’m doing’s for the best.”

Before the men around him moved, he strode
Toward the door, his face implacable.

Ruanne took flight outside her thoughts, her feelings
As raw as skin upon the head of children
Brought out into the light outside the womb.

“You’re wrong,” she heard herself say, voice as sharp
As sharpened knives. “You cannot kill the child!
To kill a child forever marks the soul
With blackness stained into an evil life.”

Ruarther stopped and looked into her panicked eyes.

“I’ll love you all my life,” he said, voice loud.

He turned, picked up his bow, plowed through the snow
Toward the stone wall built around the village.
Inside the hall a hunter, Cragdon, startled,
Then left the hall to join Ruarther’s rage.
His young wife grabbed at him, missed, wailed with fear.
The young man did not stop or even pause.

Audio of Ruarther’s Threat

Note: This is the eighth installment of a long poem. Inspired by John Keats’ long narrative poem, Lamia, it tells a story set in ancient times when dragons and humans were at peace. Click on the numbers to reach other sections, or go to the Categories box to the right under The Dragon Epic. Click on 1 to go to the beginning and read forward, 8 to read the installment before this one. Click on 10 to read the next section.


Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis, Uncategorized