Tag Archives: daughters

Rural Places

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Our brothers
saw under bridges,
saw alleys
off Main Street,
saw back rooms
behind bars,
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.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry

Tom’s new sonnet in The Road Not Taken

The new issue of The Road Not Taken, a Journal of Formal Poetry has just published one of my sonnets, “Spreading Wings.” You canhttp://journalformalpoetry.com, then click on the Spring 2016 issue and scroll down. Since both of our daughters, Sonja and Mary, were present at the poetry reading at the Reader’s Loft Bookstore in Green Bay (http://www.houseofthetomato.com/march), I read this Italian sonnet there. The sonnet is about them when they were young. I wrote it during an extremely terrifying time in Ethel’s and my life when Kevin, our 27 year old son, was in the process of dying from cancer. Writing sonnets (I wrote 44 in all) was the only way I could bear what Ethel, I, and, of course, Kevin most of all, were going through. What concerned me day after day was our family and remembering incidents that made up the substance of our lives as a family. This sonnet tells of a time that I remember with great love in my spirit.
Raising children is not always easy, but I like to think that at least part of what Ethel and I have achieved in life is the way our two daughters have reflected into our granddaughters and grandsons. They both are beyond outstanding parents, always willing to sacrifice so that their children can meet whatever promise they have in life. I am also convince that they are great teachers because of the spirit they have inculcated from the time they were toddlers, dancing through life with a verve that gives no quarter to a universe that is not always kind.
I hope those of you who go to read the sonnet will enjoy it.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis, Uncategorized


by Thomas Davis

On Friday nights I’d work all day, then walk
home from the office where two teenaged girls
were streaming past their mother with their talk
about this boy, this girl, their endless whirl
of friend, near-friend relationships that bloomed
and changed like clothing changed from day to day.

The minute that I touched the door excitement spumed
as I gulped down a meal before Green Bay—
and then we drove for forty country miles
to where two girls could dance and laugh to songs
and show that small town girls had mastered styles
that big town girls would envy all night long.

I sat inside a dinghy Burger King
and read while daughters spread their teen club wings.

Note: This sonnet was published earlier on fourwindowspress.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

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

My One True Love And the Meaning of Moments

She stands inside the garden’s blooming, still
As long green stalks that reach toward the sun.
Above her head the Arcosanti bell,
A gift brought to her by her lovely son,
Waits wind to stir its deep, pure voice to song.
Her graying hair shines in the early morning light:
A silent testament to births and how
Her son died in a place she did not understand
And how her daughters have a boundless grace
And how granddaughters gleam and grandsons spark,
One caught inside autism’s draining clinch—
A binding to the yellows, blues, and pinks
Of blooms she planted in the early spring

Then, whirring, one bold calliope bees
Up to the bright red feeder near her eyes
And slips its slender beak into the hole
Where nectar made inside her kitchen sink
Transmutes into an iridescent energy.
A moment more and clouds of hummingbirds
Kaleidoscope around her head; her eyes
And spirit swirled into a halo born
Of flowers, bell, the hummingbirds, the light
Of early morning, all the life she’s lived.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

Sonnet 36

by Thomas Davis

What does it mean deep down, beneath all feelings,
all thought, the regularity of breath,
to have a son? Blood from your blood, the singing
as steady as your heartbeat, the length and breadth
of who you are as father, husband, man,
the meaning borne from father, mother, son
passed through to son and daughters, all the hands
humanity has known on days with blazing suns.
We ought to celebrate and really know
each moment when our voices weave a song
as powerful as any oratorio
that makes the love we feel forever strong.

I think about my son, his spirit’s gentleness,
his signature of passionate intelligence.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

Sonnets 4, 8, and 24

by Thomas Davis


Three children, daughters and a son, each one
so precious that they sang alive our days,
extending who we were into a sun-
filled destiny where joy and love and praise
would always spin out like a spool of string
into the future where we’d live in glory.

So many memories: The girls on swings,
our son enraptured by a funny story,
the kind of living fashioned from the touch
of life on life, from parents into child,
the common daily motions that are such
a part of who we humans are, selves tiled

into a kaleidoscope of moment histories
defining love, our deepest human mystery.


To Mary

As tiny, delicate as butterflies,
she sleeps inside the tent they’ve put her in.
Too young for whooping cough, her breathing, cries,
are fluttering, her living stretching thin
across the fact that she’s too young, too new
to face what is a harsh reality.
A second daughter, miracle so true
she opens up a universe to be.
Her mother spends a night, two nights, tense hours
of waiting, waiting for her breath to clear.

When those you love are threatened, all the towers
of hope constructed when you’re free of fear

are held suspended, waiting for the charm
of holding one small baby in your arms.


To Sonja

As beautiful as autumn maple leaves,
Vesuvius fires locked deep inside her bones,
she finds the strength to face her trials and weave
a rising from the place where she’s been thrown.
Sometimes her fires stir up a sweeping wind
that uproots trees and changes what has been,
but through the storms of life she keeps her friends
and throws her stress into a rubbish bin.
First born, her independence drove us wild
when hormones had her stretch her fledgling wings.
We wanted family, but in this shining child
we had a bird who wanted songs she made to sing.

And now she has a husband, two young sons,
A woman walking proudly in the sun.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

Sonnets 22 and 23

by Thomas Davis


At Newport Beach the sun was shining Spring.
Offshore, out in Lake Michigan, clouds brewed
in swelling rolls lit white by sun, a multitude
of giants in a day so still the wings
of seabirds hardly moved as, white, they swing
above the lake into the shore, the mood
created like perfection, interlude
between the storms our selves are apt to sing.

Our daughters swim against the waves and laugh.
Our son, absorbed, collects a pile of stones
and makes a wall on sand, an autograph
soon lost to water and the wave’s white foam.
Time freezes in our minds, but arrows past,
though we would make our times together last.


Time turns into a cruelty of hours.
The battle fought to find a snatch of hope,
our conversations as we tried to grope
with decades shrunk to days, and youthful powers
reduced to helplessness and empty hours,
our words of love as time, the misanthrope,
snatched from the two of us the skills we need to cope
with dread and loss and cancer’s awful power.

He doesn’t wake. He doesn’t speak. His breath
is ragged; coughing rattles in his chest.
His face is yellow, thin; it hints of death
to come–so suffering will end with rest.
And as we wait, time crawls where once it flew,
as mutable as good times we once knew.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

Sonnets 9 and 10

by Thomas Davis


I listen to the patterns of his talk,
not words, but how intelligence melds tight
into the rhythm, substance, breathing, walk
of who he is, our precious son, the light
we want to hold so awfully hard and tight
his brightness will survive for years and years.
But now his voice is weak. We face a plight
no parent wants, but every parent fears.
We sit beside his bed and hold back tears
and wonder why intelligence is not
enough, acknowledgement by all his peers,
his friendships, days of happiness are not

enough, not while I listen for his thoughts
expressed as rhythms in his too-soft talk.


Our girls, when young, while we were driving, clapped
their hands and sang a rhythm song, their voices
so beautiful we felt as if they’d wrapped
the two of us into a world where choices
flowed like a shining river to the sea,
our lives a rhythm graced by daughters’ song.
We had our cares, but we were really free
of troubles that can make life seem so wrong.
Now here, today, I hear my daughters clapping,
hands flying from their sides up to their palms,
and listen to our heartbeats snapping, snapping
across the years to help our hearts stay calm.

Inside this turbulence I’d love to see
our daughters like they are inside my memory.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis