Tag Archives: death

The Rhyming of Love

by Thomas Davis

Our fathers died, and then your mother left
And took a train ride to her resting place.
There are no words for senses left bereft
The moment living left our son’s good face.

Our love was glory when it first began to bloom.
We walked brown hills and felt the sky breathe light—
You took your hesitant, unlikely groom
And gave him more of life than was his right.

The days of work and turmoil, gladness, stress,
Have slowed us down and made us feel our years
As separateness has ground against the press
Of love through joyous days and bitter tears.

From gnarling roots of memories and time,
Love forges symphonies of changing rhyme.

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Better Place

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Perhaps,
if we didn’t want
to go to a better place—
they said when he died
he went to a better place—
we would want to take care
of the earth
and other species.

Perhaps,
if we thought
of the earth
as our better place,
we would revere it–
the forest and animals
would be our cathedral.

This morning
the cornered possum
lay down and played dead
until the children and dog left.
Then she got up and ran away,

returning to her cherished life,
her better place.

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Visitation

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

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

But those threads
will widen,
grow strong
when they decide to live
again,
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.

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The Eagle and the Pelican

by Thomas Davis

The day was shining, water dancing blue
Below the hill still glittering with dew.
Achat, with Hurit by his side, looked down
Toward the pebble beach and lake, his frown
Intense with memories he’d long suppressed,
His heartbeat beating loudly in his chest.
Long years had passed since he had stood above
The place reminding him of timeless love.

His childish body hid behind a birch
Inside a grove upon the hill, his perch
The perfect place to watch his father run
Toward his mother on the beach, the sun
So bright with summer heat it bent the air
And danced above the terror of despair.

That night his father, in a shallow cave,
Had whispered, “When it’s light you’ll have to save
Yourself by hiding. They won’t try to kill
Your Mom and I. They want you dead. Your skill
In hiding where you can’t be found is all
The hope that’s left.” His mother’s night-bird call
Had told them she was near. “Remember, hide!”
He’d said, then left the cave, his son inside.

Five hunters left the trees. His father ran.
His mother stopped and watched. The biggest man
Stopped, pulled his bow string, let an arrow fly.
It struck his father’s back. His mother’s cry
Of anguish shattered silence. The big man’s yell
Of triumph echoed as his father fell.

A boy of ten, he knelt and watched the men
Walk slowly down the beach, knives drawn, a grin
Upon their faces as his mother cried
Until the bloody moment when she died.

As Hurit watched the shadows on his face,
Tears welled into her eyes. “This is the place?”
She asked. He stared into the distant past
And felt the shock and terror that had gasped
Into his spirit, forced him up the hill.
“Not here,” he said. “Up there. I saw them kill
My mother and my father here. I fled
So that I wouldn’t have to see them dead.”

He turned abruptly, climbing up toward
The cliffs above them. As an eagle soared
From off the rising rocks, Achat stopped, glanced
At Hurit, beautiful and strong, entranced
By mysteries she did not understand.

He felt his twisted back and twisted hand
Send shudders through the villagers who looked
At him. His gross deformities had hooked
A terror that their spirits could not shake
No matter how his parents tried to make
Him like another boy, a villager
And not some dark, unholy, malformed cur.

The eagle circled from the cliffs to where
They climbed; its piping cries a solitaire,
Bleak ritual that seemed to integrate
Their movements with dark auguries of fate.

The men upon the beach had seen him climb
Into the open. Scared and grieving, time
A shrinking leather strap about his neck,
He started scaling up the cliffs, a speck
Of darkness in the sky above him, fear
Inside each breath he took, his thoughts not clear.
At last, upon the cliff rim, looking down,
He watched the hunters point, an eagle’s brown,
Swift body suddenly above the cliffs,
A pelican below the eagle, riffs
Of offshore winds a trembling under wings
That folded as a beak’s bright yellow flings
Into the flying pelican as two
Large birds fell tumbling through the sky’s bright blue.

As blood spewed from the pelican, dense mist
Spread from the blood, a shadowy encyst
So thick Achat, the child, had lost his sight.
The summer day had turned into a night
So dark he could not move. He tried to hear
The hunters at the cliff’s rock base, a queer
Infinity inside his head, but all
He’d heard were whispers in the murky pall
That chilled his bones and goaded him to see
Again the murderous, wild sense of glee
That plunged a knife into his mother’s heart
And tore his sense of who he’d been apart.

As Hurit took his hand upon the rim
Above the cliff and bay, he looked so grim
He frightened her. “This is the place,” she said.

He felt the awful sense of blinding dread
That once had paralyzed him as he stood
In mist, the hunters out of sight, childhood
A past forgotten. “When my father came
And led me from this cliff,” he said. “My shame
At having hidden as my parents died
Was more than I could take. I thought the tide
Of life had ended, leaving me a husk
Who’d live his life inside an endless dusk.
I never thought I’d love or feel again.
My living felt as if it was a sin.”

“My father found you in a cedar swamp,”
She said. “He frightened me,” he said. “The clomp
Of boots through muck continued what assailed
Me while I dreamed of dying, as I railed
Against my hand and back and longed for death.”

“My father said he heard your rasping breath
Before he found you on a spit of land,”
She answered. “When you couldn’t even stand
He carried you. He’s always said he knew
That you were someone special, someone who
Would give to all our people special gifts.”

He looked down at the beach below the cliffs.
He saw the arrow in his father’s back
And saw his mother as a spirit, black
Eyes urging him to run, his father’s voice
An insubstantial whisper sapping choice
About continued living from his will,
His father’s running swift, but yet dead still.
A guttural howling haunted hate into his eyes.
He heard again his mother’s anguished cries.

“I watched you save my mother’s life,” she said,
Voice soft. “You took the fever from her head
And put it in the air. I saw you call
Old Weso back from death, the awful pall
Of waxen lifelessness inside his skin,
His face weird, twisted by his death-mask grin.”

He took a deep, long breath. The eagle flew
Above their heads. The sunlight seemed to skew
Into a twisted ball of blinding light.
The eagle disappeared, its soaring flight
An emptiness of bright blue summer sky.

Inside his head the pelican’s sharp cry,
As eagle talons sank into its flesh,
Forged summer light into an augered mesh
That jolted fire into a boy that made
His way through mist behind his father’s shade.

He looked at Hurit and his twisted hand.
He felt the power in the cliffs, this land.
He wondered, as he stared at distant waves,
If he was looking at his parent’s graves.

The day was shining, water glinting blue.
He said to Hurit, “I’m in love with you.”

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Shell

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

I can’t remember when
the old man’s house became unliving,
when the closed-off rooms became closed-off
from life and put on the shelf,
unusable like the clock in the attic,
the meaning all but gone.

Like the grandchildren’s forgotten names–
who once were through his loins,
now faded memories–
where once the sea breezes of June
and August swept down the hills
and through the house where
now
the shell of a man sits,
a seashell washed up on the shoreline.

Life has long gone out,
and the smell of the air is overpowering,
and I turn away
because it is the smell of death.

The fresh sea breezes
blow down hills
sweet with the wild rose.

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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,
angry.

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

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

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Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

The Rhyming of Love

a love poem to Ethel by Thomas Davis

Our fathers died, and then your mother left
And took a train ride to her resting place.
There are no words for senses left bereft
The moment living left our son’s kind face.

Our love was glory when it first began to bloom.
We walked brown hills and felt the sky breathe light—
You took your hesitant, unlikely groom
And gave him more of life than was his right.

The days of work and turmoil, gladness, stress,
Have slowed us down and made us feel our years
As separateness has ground against the press
Of love through joyous days and bitter tears.

From gnarling roots of memories and time,
Love forges symphonies of changing rhyme.

9 Comments

Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis