Tag Archives: darkness

Cougar

by Thomas Davis

The cougar, tawny shadow in the rocks,
Moved stealthily toward the maple grove.
Lake water glinted as the noisy flocks
Of geese stormed from the shelter of the cove.
The blinding sunlight still allowed the moon
To sail, ghost-white, into the dying afternoon.

Far out, a dozen miles from land, the swells
Of rocking waves beneath the tiny boat,
A man begins to celebrate and yells,
Emotions unaware of how remote
He is from land, the glistening chinook
Caught by the white bone of his hand-carved hook.

The winter’s done, he thought. At last it’s done!
He reached down for his paddle as a haze
Crept from the north and dimmed the western sun.
He felt a change inside the rolling waves
And saw how far he’d traveled from the trees
That shivered from a sudden, chilling breeze.

The cougar tensed its body on a ledge
Above a trail deer followed to the lake.
All day it fixed its eyes upon a hedge
The deer would file around, the bloody rake
Of claws in deer flesh promised in the way
It waited patiently throughout the day.

Clouds scudded black into the evening skies
As choppy waves began to spray the wind
Into the man’s cold face and reddened eyes.
At last his mind began to apprehend
The danger in the darkness of a night
Directionless without a hint of light.

A doe and fawn came through the hedge and stopped.
The cougar did not move. Time froze. The doe
Kept staring at the ledge. At last ears dropped.
The cougar watched the fawn, its cautious, slow,
Small movement made toward the cougar’s claws
Retracted, still, inside its twitching paws.

The mother snorted at the fawn. It flinched
Toward a maple trunk. The cougar sprang,
Its body twisting in the air, jaws clinched
As doe and fawn leapt through an overhang
Of cedars as the cougar hit the ground
And filled the silent woods with snarling sound.

Inside the rhythm of his paddling
The man began to dream of children’s eyes.
Outside the wind was constant, rattling
The thick bark walls he’d built, the haunting cries
Of winter deprivation in the breath
Of little ones too young to face their death.

Hours passed. He fought the waves. The shore
Somewhere inside the darkness beckoned him.
He dug into his tiredness, past the core
Of who he was, his perseverance grim
Enough to face the dance of spirits howled
Across awareness where disaster prowled.

Then, suddenly, the boat hit land. It threw
Him backwards. Lying still he felt life surge
Its song into his beating heart, the brew
Of wind and waves no longer like a dirge
Of doom, the willow basket full of fish—
Fulfillment of his family’s anxious wish.

The cougar’s eyes were fire. The man had placed
The basket on the pebble beach and pulled
The boat above the water when he faced
The cat, its eyes and crouching body bold
Beside the basket with the fish, it’s ears
Laid back, it’s growling stirring ancient fears

Of children, grieving with their mother, left
Alone inside a wilderness, the man’s
Life gone, their futures suddenly bereft
Of all the dreams he’d fashioned from his plans.
The cougar’s eyes were suns, a universe.
The man waved arms and shouted out a curse.

The cougar turned and grabbed a fish, the night
A darkness swallowing a shadow bled
Into an emptiness devoid of light.
The man stood frozen as the cougar fled.
At last he got the basket, climbed the hill,
The cougar in his life-force, tense and still.

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In the Aftermath

by Thomas Davis

The woman wrapped the child against the cold
And walked into the forest where the glow
Of moonlight pooled a deeply shadowed gold
Beneath the trees on softly shining snow.

She gathered wood, the baby on her back,
And built a fire, its warmth a dancing light
Upon a great flat rock protruding black
Into the lake’s infinity of white.

Then, in the dark, sat, death-still, beside
The flames, the baby in her arms, the smear
Of stars above their heads a radiant tide
Of silence singing to the ebbing year.

At last, her voice a permutation slipped
Into the night, she started chanting words
Born deep in spirit as the blackened crypt
Of waters stirred beneath lake ice, and birds,

As black as mourning shrouds, began to fly,
The forest stirring like the waters, wind
A whisper as the baby voiced a tiny cry
And shadowy trees began to sway and bend.

The woman got up on her feet, her voice
As silver as the moon, and sang as deer
Began to bound onto the ice: “Rejoice,”
The woman sang, and as she sang the fear

Felt during hours of pain-filled, labored birth
Dissolved into the biting wind and light
That danced with deer upon the lake, the earth
And living integrated with the night.

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The Artist

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The deaf-mute
stands in darkness
unable to communicate
himself to us.

Wait.

He touches me…

and in the blackness
his touch
pierces
to the very bones within me,
deeper than the deep kidneys,
quenching
my unquenchable
thirst,

bringing dewdrops
to my raging
fire.

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Untitled, a photograph by Sonja Bingen

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Winter Solstice

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Light is returned to light
on the high desert.
December’s darkness
never reaches the ground
like in the northern regions.

The north,
where once snow drifted
over tops of fences
and cold nights turned drifts
into white, frozen dunes
solid enough to support
the weight of a young girl and her dog
as she ran to celebrate
new-found freedom.

It was here,
near the southern corner of the field,
where she saw the great snowy owl.
He dipped down to her level,
scrutinizing her
with piercing yellow eyes.
She felt both fear and amazement
as the great white body
brushed near her face,
close enough to see the black spots
on his white feathers.

Now we roll the darkness
with our feet
into the fire,
amazed by the brilliance
of the light.

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Migrations

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The stealth of migrations
move across the land
under cover of darkness,
moving in hundreds
and then thousands.

You told me
about your car lights
shining in a canyon
one night–
“More elk than
one could imagine,”

moving to the southern places
where canyons lap over canyons,
lands whose vastness is greater
than the mind can comprehend,

unlike the northern deer
that migrate further north
to find giant spruce trees
whose branches touch
the ground to make
a snowless, warm canopy
for the wintering.

You said, “The axe blade
is sharpened, ready
to chop the bone
at the joints.”

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Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry