Ethel Mortenson Davis’s drawing is the perfect artwork for the cover of the epic:
Ethel Mortenson Davis’s drawing is the perfect artwork for the cover of the epic:
by Thomas Davis
On January 1, 1975 I was working as a teacher at the Menominee County Community School when the Menominee Warrior Society took over the Alexian Brother’s Novitiate in Gresham, Wisconsin. Ethel and I were living in the Gresham trailer park at the time, and on January 2, a Monday, I drove into work as usual. I was a little nervous about taking my usual route down County Road VV since the news about the Novitiate was dominating local media and the old building was not far off my route, but I was pretty dedicated to the Community School and had no intention of missing work.
Sure enough, as I drove toward the Menominee County line, men in uniform, holding rifles in their hands, were blocking the road ahead of me. I remember a lot of snow on the ground, and it was cold. January in northern Wisconsin can be brutal. I drove up to where the men were standing, stopped, rolled down the window, and, after a conversation of several minutes, convinced them I was a teacher on my way to work. The men were tense and nervous and that was obvious in their questioning of me.
By that evening the Novitiate takeover dominated television and print news all over the world. However, other events were brewing in Shawano County where the Novitiate was located that would not make news until later. The Posse Comitatus, conspiracy minded, anti government, anti Semitic, white supremacist Christians, was beginning to stir and develop as an armed militia force, and even a cult with a mysterious origin was preparing to form a compound on land purchased not far from the old Menominee Reservation’s borders.
Four Windows Press has just released an epic poem that blends these, and other elements present in Shawano County from those momentous times, into an epic story. An American Spirit, an American Epic is a fictional poem. I worked hard to avoid portraying any real individual, even though I knew several of those who took over the Novitiate, in a story that rages with reality and magic, blending all the elements of Shawano County and the Novitiate takeover into a massive river of events told in traditional iambic pentameter meter. But there are powerful truths woven out of the heart of where we are at in American society today in the story.
The Editor of a small literary journal in Stevens Point, Wisconsin published two brief passages from the epic in Hepcat’s Revenge in April of 1995. Just before the passages appeared Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma Federal Building, giving warning of what was about to become a significant thread in American life. In his commentary on the passages he published, the Editor said that An American Spirit was prophetic. He also commented that there were a lot of pages of strong poetry. Given events such as the deadly Charlottesville riots and President Trump’s racist attitude toward American Indians, it’s difficult to avoid the prescience of the Editor’s judgment.
I have not published the epic before now partially because I was reluctant to self-publish it and partially because I have always wondered if it would be more controversial as a work of art than I wished to face. There are so many questions about it in my head. This is the only R rated work of literature I have ever written. The Posse Comitatus still exists under another name, and the epic does not treat them well, as is appropriate, and I used a lot of American Indian content derived from books noted in the footnotes. Should a non-Indian author do that? I have worked for the Indian controlled schools and tribal colleges and universities movements most of my life. The wisdom of American Indian culture is deep and wonderful, but it is their culture and belongs only to each tribe’s unique ethos.
The truth is that even though the epic is available through amazon.com, I do not intend to market it aggressively like I do my other books. I believe it explores the American spirit in a way that it should be explored. American society is not a melting pot where races, ethnicities, and political identities are blended into a single whole. Rather, it is a complex explosion of identities played out inside the great pageant of history that is always becoming an uncertain future. Conflict and resolution stir in surprising and unexpected ways, giving Americans an identity that is never static, but spins its forces in ways threatening the continuance of the natural world and even human beings who depend upon that world for existence.
The magic elements of the epic are derived from two main sources, although other sources can be found in the body of the poem. Many of the magical allusions are drawn from the Old or New Testament of the Holy Bible. American society for a large part of its history up until the current day has been a culture imbued with the Christian religion. However, in counterpoint to Christianity, the also epic explores the power of the feminine and fertility based upon the tenants of the White Goddess of Celtic lore and other ancient symbols of female power. The conflict between the father dominance and the fall out of the Garden of Eden and the powers of Mother Earth has long seemed to me to be a ferment helping to define current day American society.
Even though, I admit, I am hesitant to invite comments from those who read An American Spirit, An American Epic, I hope those who are willing to delve into its pages feel free to tell me what they think. This is one of the major works, written a long time ago, of my life. I need to steel myself for whatever reception it does, or does not, receive.
The Weirding Storm, A Dragon Epic has been published by Bennison Books. It is now available at amazon.com.
The U.S. Amazon address is:
The address for Bennison Books, a UK publisher, is: https://bennisonbooks.com.
I am hoping that anyone who purchases the book from Amazon, either U.S. or U.K. Amazon, will also review the book. That helps publicize it in the amazon universe.
I am really excited about this publication. Bennison Books publishes some of my favorite poets and to be part of their stable with one of the best books I have ever written gives me an euphoric feeling. I hope some of you will be willing to be transported to another world where dragons and humans still co-exist along with witches, warriors, and battles, to paraphrase Terence Winch, one of the U.S.’s greatest poets.
The final passage of The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis
The morning sun was shining on the cliffs.
The dragonflies were swarming on the pond.
The surface of the pond seemed like it had
An ever-moving veil upon its face
As tiny multi-colored bodies whirred,
Their wings invisible as bodies’ darted
A dance too intricate to recognize.
Ruarther came out of the woods, two hares
Limp in his hands, a light inside his eyes.
Beside the shed Ruanne stopped feeding chickens
That pecked around her feet and fluttered wings
And looked toward Ruarther with a smile.
“We’ll need the hares!” she called out. “Reestor’s sure
To get here near to dusk and supper time.”
Ruarther’s right arm lifted up a hare.
“I’ll get them ready for the pot,” he said
And walked toward the cottage’s oak door.
Above them, using wings to brake her speed,
Ssruanne flew past the cottage, neck outstretched,
And landed heavily upon the ground
Beside the pond and fleeing dragonflies.
Ruanne flipped up her apron, scattering
The seed into the air, as chickens squawked
And flapped their wings, excited by the food,
And walked toward the golden dragon’s shining.
Ruarther altered course and walked to join
Ruanne as warmly whirling dragon eyes
Looked at the two of them approvingly.
Behind them, from the cottage, Wei ran out
The door and shouted as she ran toward
The three of them, excitement in her voice.
“Ssruanne!” she called. “You’re here! At last you’re here!”
Ruarther dropped his hares upon the ground
As Wei ran up between them, smiling wildly,
And took their hands and skipped toward the dragon,
Her joy impelling them toward the pond.
“A human child needs human care,” Ssruanne
Declared approvingly. She reached out, touched
Her nose to Wei’s small hand, and rumbled joy
Deep down inside her chest, her dragon sense
Of life a wave that rippled out into the day.
Ruarther did not say a word, but reached out, touched
His daughter’s arm, smiled, hugged Ruanne to him,
And felt how lucky he had been to live
Into this moment when he was a human man.
To listen to this passage, click on
Note: This is the fiftieth, and last, 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 The Long Song Done to read the passage before this one.
a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis
Ruanne’s, the dragon’s, song gave strength to Wei.
She moved her wings inside the nothingness,
Ignoring wisps of spirits straining past
The place she occupied while still alive.
She felt her father, mother, in the void,
But only saw the swirling spirit ghosts
That danced and disappeared in currents stronger
Than any sense of being in a mind.
As other humans joined the song Ruanne
Sang with the dragons, Wei began to feel
A tide that seemed to have a substance absent
From hurricanes of absent spirits flung
About within the coldness of the void.
She spread her human dragon wings and forced
Herself to move into the feeble tide,
Its current stronger as she moved against
Its force, its substance growing grainier.
The song of life Ruanne had brought alive
Surrounded her and gave increasing strength
Until, at last, she saw them in the grayness,
Her father’s and her mother’s arms alive
With weaving substance out of vapored absence.
The universe was dying in her world.
The sentience inside the trees was shorn
Of time that let them draw their sustenance
From earth and rich, black soils; the beating hearts
Of dragons and of humans boiled their essence
Outside the power of Ruanne’s wild song
Into the nothingness hidden by a veil
Millennia had held until the day
Wei’s mother’s love had reached beyond her grave
And made the weirding storm now powerful
Enough to end all living on the earth.
Wei drew the song life sang into her hearts
And sang her love toward the substance holding
Her mother and her father’s selves together.
The chaos roared inside her ears and self.
It seemed as if the nothingness had gained
A life and hated anyone who threatened
To end the substance it now was inside.
The buffeting of cold assailing Wei
Began to draw her from the doorway where
Her mother wove her spells into the world.
Wei gathered up the song of life and hurled
It, filled with all she was, toward her mother.
Her mother’s form, so ghostly in the void,
Became as solid as the love that tucked
A blanket to her daughter’s chin at night
And let her daughter know the safety knit
Into the certainty of mother’s love.
Her father touched her mother’s arm and shook
His ghostly head and waved toward his daughter.
Receding, Wei saw sadness in her mother’s eyes.
Her mother reached toward the power song
Surrounding Wei, and then the substance built
Inside a place where substance could not be
Began to dissipate into reality.
The dire wolves’ howled beneath the canopy
Of forest where they lived the ravening.
The hearts of dragons thundered as they flew
Above the village smouldering from war.
Wei saw her mother die a second time.
She would not visit as a ghost again.
Inside the dusk of chaos tattering
Into the substance of a normal sky
Grief wailed into Wei’s triple hearts and shivered
Across the snow plains to the mountain peaks.
She felt her wings dissolving in the air.
She did not care, she thought. She did not care.
The Old One felt the shift inside the chaos.
She spread her wings and tried to see where Wei
Was in the ending of the weirding storm.
A cleansing, bitter wind was blowing hard
Down from the mountain peaks into village.
She strained her wings into the shrieking wind.
Behind her, Mmirrimann was following.
She saw the rainbow dragon sparking light
Into the darkness scattering away
From where the rainbow bands were shooting out
Across the surface of the wintered earth.
Ssruuanne felt that she might be much too late.
She flew much faster than she’d ever flown.
The rainbow dragon detonated light
Into the darkness as the sky turned blue.
A child fell from the light toward the earth.
Ssruuanne swooped low and grabbed the child
Inside her claws and climbed back to the sky.
Ruanne’s song drifted off into a silence,
Her long chant done; her strength gone from her heart.
Beneath Ssruuanne Wei did not try to move.
She breathed, but did not seem to be alive.
To listen to this passage, click on The Long Song Done.
Note: This is the forty ninth passage of a long narrative poem, which has grown into The Dragon Epic. There is one more passage after the one to be put on fourwindowspress. 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 Upon the Brink of Destruction to read the passage before this one. The next, and last passage, is at Having Become Human.
a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis
As Sshruunak and his followers began
To flee the village, Mmirrimann sent out
A panicked plea to stop. Ssruaanne had swerved
To miss the ground near where Ruanne was chanting
Her power song and started following
The beaten dragon horde toward the chaos
That swirled its void around the village walls.
“Join with the witches’ singing!” Mmirrimann
Demanded. “Find a balance for the world!”
The realms of death swept over cottages
And sang their chaos deep in sentient minds.
Ssruaanne wheeled in the sky and linked her mind
Into the song Ruanne was singing, coldness
Numbed deep beneath her scales into her hearts.
She felt the power flowing from the singing Wei
Who’s linked into the words Ruanne was chanting.
She felt the search that Wei was making, lost
Inside the storm of nothingness, the flotsam
Of spirits, once alive, a ghostly dance
That swirled into the living universe
And started disassembling the order
That made time’s arrow flow, its winging gluing
Together possibilities of sentient life.
As Mmirrimann’s strong spirit joined the song
And other dragons found the stream of beauty
Entwined into the magic Ruanne made,
The cording of the music found the fear
In human, dragon hearts and grew until
The silent sound formed bubbles that surrounded
The village and the forest and the lives
That gave the earth its meaning laced in time.
Reality, assaulted by the winds
Of death, rose out of humans, dragons, trees,
And shimmered as another war erupted,
The chaos trembling over all of life
As life fought back with sentient hearts and song.
Below the floors where children hid from dragons,
Their mothers held their small ones close and tried
To ward away the chilling cold with love.
Inside the caves where guardians hovered over
The clutches of the dragon eggs, stunned dragons
Reached out to find the song Ruanne had started
And tried to use the warmth inside the song
To keep the eggs from crumbling to mist
So fierce it penetrated stone-deep walls
Protecting caves and cliffs and dragon life.
Ruarther tried to move his legs toward
The cottage wall he’d almost reached when mist
Descended over him and took away
Reality from eyes and touch and smell.
He felt the Spirit Bear, still whole, beside
Him, looking for a way into his physicality,
But, like he’d done inside the weirding wood,
He drove into himself until he felt
The song Ruanne was in his life and started
The process of building who he was from scratch,
His burning core alive inside the deadness.
He could not feel his movement through the mist,
But still he struggled, pushing out from deep
Inside himself into the world he knew existed.
Then, like a hint of morning light before
Light filtered dusk into a cloud cloaked sky,
He thought he heard Ruanne, her sweet, strong voice,
Outside his head, but still inside his mind.
He reached for her and fell into abyss
As dragon minds and human minds were linked
And drummed as loud as any symphony
Had ever been at any human time.
The power of the mind-song slammed his heart.
He even felt the song sung by the stones
That only moved inside eternal time.
He moved inside the sound until he found
The chanting of Ruanne’s sweet voice and joined
His voice to hers and wove a melody
Of two inside the strands of music weaving
Defense against the terror of the void.
There needs to be some certainty in life,
He thought. Inside the certainty is love.
To listen to this passage, click on .
Note: This is the forty eighth 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 Living Inside Chaos to read the passage before this one.
a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis
Ssruanne swooped suddenly toward the ground.
Ruarther closed his eyes and forced the cry
Of terror in his throat to swallow bile.
And then the golden dragon let him fall
A foot into the snow, his eyes still filled
With dragons smashing cottages as fire
From arrows burned their bellies and their sides.
The image of the ancient dragon who had flown
Beside the golden dragon from the field,
Descending on the coal black dragon who
Had almost killed Ruarther in the moonlight,
Seemed false, impossible to understand.
Unharmed, he got up on his feet and saw
The stone wall circling the village, warmth
Inside of him as memories of life
He’d often treated badly, even though
The villagers, his kin, had honored him,
Came rushing in a flood of wondrous joy.
He ran toward the wall, climbed up, and stopped.
Below, his face a frozen mask, was Cragdon.
His blackened skin had peeled to show his skull.
He’d died an agonizing death by fire.
Ruarther sat, stunned, on the wall as dragons,
Attacking dragons with ferocity
And overwhelming streams of deadly flame,
Reordered everything he’d thought through life.
The golden dragon that he’d feared so much
Roared down on Ruanne’s cottage, claws extended.
The monster black that Cragdon and Ruarther
Had fought screeched as it rose to meet her claws.
What madness had possessed his life and made
Him choose a rationality so wrong
It had no anchor in reality?
He saw the bow that Cragdon once had held
And tried to force himself to leave the wall.
Above him spirit creatures, freed from chaos,
Streamed through the air toward the awful carnage
As dragons joined the humans fighting dragons.
The villagers, confused, had stopped their efforts
To launch their flaming arrows at hard scales
Since they could not discern which dragons fought
Beside them or against them in the battle.
The dragons wheeled and roared and filled the air
With colored scales, wings, flames, and aerobatics.
There were so many that it seemed as if
There was no room for empty winter skies.
Behind the spirit beasts a weirding storm
Swirled from the center of a cloud that fell
In blackness down toward the snowy earth.
Ruarther heard the dire wolves howling rage
Before the storm and saw a wall of chaos
Inhaling light, normality, and reason.
The bridge between the netherworld and life
Raged worse than any dragon’s roar or flame or claws.
Ruarther did not flinch to see the storm.
He’d lived through frightening storms too many times.
He glanced again at Cragdon’s grimaced face,
Then stood upon the wall again, his face toward
The storm about to swallow up the world.
Why had a man as brave as Cragdon died?
Ruarther, tortured by his history
Of grievous faults, would not run from the storm,
But face it’s fury with a fury of his own.
Before the wall of swirling, ugly clouds,
The rainbow human dragon wheeled around,
A shining dragonfly against the deadly
Immensity the world could not escape.
Ruarther wondered at the grace he’d sought
So long to murder in his spirit-heart.
To listen to this passage, click on Before the End of the World
Note: This is the forty fifth 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 Confrontation to read the passage before this one. Click on Retreat to read the next passage in the epic.