a photograph by Sonja Bingen
a photograph by Sonja Bingen
Ethel’s poem, “Cold”, has been published by Poetry Breakfast this morning. Poetry Breakfast emails one poem a day to subscribers. It publishes some of the finest and most accomplished poets being published today. You can see Ethel’s poem at: https://poetrybreakfast.com/category/all-poems, the site’s web page. I hope you’ll find time to go to Poetry Breakfast this morning.
by Thomas Davis
He saw the gray morph owl, its yellow eyes
A spectre deep in darkness, as he climbed
The ridge where birch trees ghosted, bent as skies
Shrieked cold and lake waves slammed against black stones.
Its whitish face, curved bill, and pointed ears
Leapt out at him the moment that he seized
The steep-slope sapling. Senseless, ancient fears
Gasped through his veins and, beating, spiked his heart.
Inside its cedar trunk, the owl, three times,
Sang, startled at his human face, and spread
Its wings as if it had the strength to climb
Past dread into a hunter’s surety.
He wondered at the madness that had forced
Him out into the storm, his restlessness
So powerful it stirred his sleep and coursed
Through legs that moved him out the door.
Ghost feathers touched his face and spooked the song
Wrung from the owl into his blood as whiteness
Whipped wildly out of sight in wind along
The ridge’s denseness edged against the sky.
He stood, knee deep in snow, the slope so steep
He hardly had the strength to stay upright
And longed to feel the warmth of lovely sleep
Out of the bitter cold beneath the snow.
The roaring waves, the wildness of the night,
Knifed down past flesh to marrow in his bones.
He turned and trudged toward the kitchen light
That meant a fire and shelter from the storm.
Back home, beside the fireplace, darkness seared
Into his thoughts, he took his pocketknife
And started whittling the way an owl’s eyes sheered
The wildness from the spirit of a man.
by Ethel Mortenson Davis
with the same fox trail
ahead of us
The cold at times
but we must
meet her at her throat;
we must reach down
we will be swallowed up
like the coyote
who stood his ground,
a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis
The dire wolf woke Ruarther from his daze.
A male as large as any that he’d seen,
Eyes red, fur ragged, black as moonless nights,
Snarled, bold, into the opening between
The stone fence where Ruarther stood and woods.
It saw Ruarther, crouched in hunting stance,
And stared at him, its baleful eyes twin cauldrons
That bubbled hatred, blind ferocity.
Ruarther jumped down from the wall and grabbed
The bow from Cragdon’s lifeless hands and sent
An arrow at the wolf in one smooth motion.
The wolf, wise to the wiles of men, moved sideways,
The arrow burying into a tree.
Ruarther pulled the bow again and aimed
At where he thought the wolf would move to dodge
His arrow’s flight; the wolf howled; other wolves
Began to come out of the forest trees.
The wolf dodged sideways once again, but true
To how Ruarther’s aim had been, the arrow
Imbedded sharpened stone in flesh; the wolf,
Now maddened, blindly charged toward Ruarther.
Ruarther sent another arrow deep
Into the charging wolf’s dark heart; it fell
As other wolves howled rage that shivered
Into the roiling clouds behind their movement.
The chaos sang with noises not of earth.
A coldness colder than the fiercest storm
Rolled to the wall and poured into the village.
The howling voices of the wolves were silenced.
Ruarther heard the spirit bear, who’d tried
To occupy his body, in the cold.
It sniffed at him, then sniffed at Cragdon’s body,
Then turned toward the village as a dark
That was no dark descended on the world.
Above the battle Wei kept circling
As humans sent their flaming arrows splashing
Across hard dragon scales and dragons fought
With dragons as the village cottages
Caught fire and filled the air with smoke and flames.
She felt the chant Ruanne was singing deep
Inside her spirit, the song so powerful
It seemed to alter how time’s arrow moved
Across the day toward night’s distant rising.
Each time she wheeled to keep herself aloft,
She saw the clouds of chaos moving like
An anvil, dense as molten iron, toward
The village, humans, dragons, and the war.
She felt her mother’s and her father’s songs
Inside the chaos, felt her mother buried
Inside her human dragon triple hearts.
Extinction swirled inside the freezing clouds.
Wei felt the message from her mother’s singing.
A dragon flying through the air, she longed
To feel her mother’s loving human touch
Upon her cheek before her mother tucked
Her gently into bed, the long day done–
But she had lost her childhood when her hands
Had woven dragon flesh around her spirit
And made her more than what she should have been.
At last, the boiling clouds intense with cold
Near village walls, she joined Ruanne’s strong chant
And started changing it away from dragons
That spewed their fire toward her slender body
Toward the chaos threatening the lives
Of every creature, every tree, on earth.
The surge of power as she linked her voice
To Ruanne’s voice was startling; she flew
Toward the anvil-looking clouds and reached to find
Her mother’s and her father’s voice in chaos,
Their struggle as they tried to make an order
Inside a universe that knew no order.
Her mind was buffeted by winds so strong
And cold they numbed her sense of who she was
And almost knocked her from the skies she flew.
Her scales seemed like they would dissolve in cold
And flow into the winds that were no winds,
Her spirit part of nothingness that hurled
Its nothingness around for all eternity.
How could she live inside the nothingness?
The stream of chanting from Ruanne dissolved
Into a song so small she hardly knew
That it still tied her to the world beyond
The gray that sucked at her and tried to meld
Her spirit with the fleeting hints of life
That flowed and merged into the whirlpool-flow
That mocked the order that her parents sought.
Deep in her self, beyond the human dragon
That she had made, she reached toward a song
Beyond her individuality.
She tried to find the hearts of who she was
Beyond the being that she was, the truth
Of how life’s impulse strained against the chaos
Imbedded in existence, making possible
The beauty and the substance of the world.
Ruarther faced the cloud and cold and felt
The raging storm of nothingness unman
Him from the human man that he’d become.
He did not flinch, but reached into the place
That let him throw the surging spirit bear
Away from who he was and meld his essence
Into the spirit of the self he was.
The chaos storm’s noise roared into his flesh
And numbed the beating of his human heart.
The cold bit down into his will and sucked
Determination from the spirit that he was.
He turned toward the village, feeling nothing
Inside the dark that raged around his body,
And tried to feel his way toward Ruanne.
She had to be alive. His love for her,
Denied so often in his stupid pride,
Was strong enough to will that she still lived.
To listen to this passage click on
Note: This is the forty seventh passage of a long narrative poem, which has grown into The Dragon Epic. Originally 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 below to reach other sections, or go to the Categories box to the right under The Dragon Epic. Click on Dragonflies, Dragons and Her Mother’s Death to go to the beginning and read forward. Go to Retreat to read the passage before this one.