Tag Archives: freedom

Freedom

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

When I was young
I yearned for a pony,
a brown, bushy-maned,
fast-stepping pony:

One that I could let
have his head
and taste what freedom
really was.

When I was older,
I told everyone
I was going to marry
a man from the West
that owned a horse ranch.

Now I’m getting too old
to ride horses,
but can watch herds
of wild horses
in the West —

if they can keep
from getting caught
and made slaves out of;
they are the freest
of all horses,

like birds
who are the freest
of us all.

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Chicago on the Road to Freedom

a terza rima sonnet

By Thomas Davis

Cacophony, noise, horses, people, smells,
A raging restlessness and energy
Unbounded from the places spirit dwells,
Infected them and made them want to flee
Their fleeing even as Chicago seethed
And made them wonder if their slavery
Was more than whips and white men wreathed
In arrogance, but something in their souls,
Their consciousness, the very air they breathed
That filled their lives with loss and empty holes
Where dreams should live and let life soar in skies
Removed from fear and all the deadly shoals
That, hidden, suddenly materialize
And snatch away a slave’s most longed-for prize.

Note: This continues the sonnet sequence I am writing. The sonnets, all of them different kind of sonnets, head each chapter in a novel that is giving me endless trouble. In the novel a large group of slaves from different plantations, led by a fiery Preacher, escape southern Missouri and head north toward Washington Island in Wisconsin. At this point in their escape they have reached Chicago.

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In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams

The Preacher sat upon a rocky hill
Above a cave where waters from the lake
Crashed angrily above the soaring shrill
Of gulls excited by a splashing wake
Of fish caught by the afternoon’s harsh light
Flashed back into the early Fall’s blue sky.

He sat upon the hill, his second sight
Unmoored and wild, and listened as the lie
He’d told himself when struggling to find
The island where his people could be free
Wrapped round reality, the awful bind
Of white men, dark men in the company
Of humankind, their kind, the hunger spun
From dreams once dreamed beneath a noonday sun.

Note: The title paraphrases a line from Pablo Neruda. This is the fourth sonnet in the series I am writing about the black community that existed for a short while on Washington Island off the tip of Door County. It was developed during a workshop led by Ralph Murre.

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Liberté, égalité, fraternité

photograph by Kevin Davis, Alazanto, our son

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

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Liberation

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

An old man leaves
a federal prison,
free at last.
He has spent
most of his life
behind bars
for a crime
he did not commit.

The air is as sweet
as any he has known.
He steps into freedom.

This morning
a white butterfly,
with black accents
I could not identify,
was caught in a spider’s web.

I pulled him from
his bondage.
He was still alive
and eager to fly.

He flew into the forest
rich with oxygen,
a freedom he had thought
would never again be his.

And there in the sundrenched trees
he became giddy
on pulsing, cooling waves of air.

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We Have All Been Slaves and Rich Men

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

We have all been slaves
and rich men.
We have run like the salmon
have run
with our freedom gone.
Be it red man, black man,
yellow or white,
we have all
been prisoners on this earth.
We have all
been free men.
And now the brightest star
in the east
says,

“Get on your pony
for the one last ride
before the dark.”

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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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