Tag Archives: humanity


by Ethel Mortenson Davis

I will call you dignity.
You are my mother.
You elevate our character.
And I will call you generosity;
you are my father.
You give us a largeness
that frees us from small meanness.

As for you, humanity,
I will call you lost.
Remember when you said,
“What good is poetry?”
“I cannot shape it into a vessel
and drink water out of it.”
“I cannot form it into a purse
and hold my money in it.”

Now, my lost one,
you have fallen into a hole.
You are on your hands and knees,
calling in the darkness
for your mother and father,
calling for poetry to be written.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry

River of People

by Thomas Davis

Carty Monette, silver hair fine below his shoulder blades,
Eyes shining black, a handsome Indian man,
Told the story at a big Kellogg Foundation meeting
In Green Bay, Wisconsin.
He said he got the story from Wayne Stein,
A professor at a Montana College,
Author of a book on the tribal colleges.

There’s this river, Carty said,
That you see from the distance,
And it looks like it’s shining and beautiful,
A good place to visit,
But when you walk up to its banks
You see that it’s a river of people,
And all of those people are in pain,
And they’re crying for themselves,
Or crying out for help,
Or they’re sinking, or almost sinking,
Below terrible currents that flow downward
Toward a sea over hills,
Past mountains, around the bend.

Some struggle for shore,
Arms flailing and bodies twisting,
And a few make it,
But even though a few make it to the riverbanks,
It’s still a river so big
It sometimes seems to be the world.

Some of those who find the river
Take one look and go back to their valley
Or mountain or city or cabin by a more peaceful river
In woods where water’s sound
Helps them sleep at night.

Others come to the river’s bank,
And they reach out hands
And start trying to save those closest to shore.

Others see the river,
And it confuses them so much they get too close,
And they fall into the flow
And join in the wail of suffering
That makes earth tremble,
Mind recoil with anguish and fear.

Those who grasp a hand and are saved from the river
Usually get away from it as fast as they can
And find their way into the world
Where the sun rises every morning
And on a clear night moonlight shines
On dark waters of a still lake.

But some join others on the river’s bank,
And they start in with the work
Of saving those few they can reach
In the mass of people always flowing past,
And some of those who have found the river
And get out of the river
Keep reaching out for hands and minds
While working upstream,
Trying to find the river’s source,
And in these people lies part of the world’s hope.

I once told Jack Briggs, before he died,
That he was one of those people who were in the river
And then turned around once he was on the bank
And started reaching out to those he had left behind.
I also told him he was one of those
Trying to find the river’s source
So that pain and trouble could be taken from waters,
And the river could flow free of people to a shining sea.
His smile was as bright as Carty’s smile
When the audience clapped after he told Wayne Stein’s story.

But sometimes I stand on the banks of that river,
And I see faces of people I know,
And I hear cries of those whom I love,
And I feel myself slipping into the river’s flow,
And I have to turn around and reach out for other hands
In an effort to save myself.

And in those times, when I am in the grasp of other hands,
I know the glory of humankind
Even though cries of misery and pain fill my ears—
And in those times I lift my eyes to the hills
And see a shining horizon
And the wheeling flight of a wing-spread golden eagle
Making alive cloudless blue skies—
In those times I search for hope
And listen to songs of healing my wife has sung,
And I know the river of people
Is in the world, but is not the world.

There are valleys where yellow meadows shine
Amidst the gentle darkness of great forests,
And there are villages and towns
Where people talk and sing and make love
And walk the good path, the spiritual path, the real path
Of human beings.

* Carty Monette was the President of Turtle Mountain Community College in North Dakota as the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC) became a reality. He has been involved in the tribal college movement since its beginning.
* Wayne Stein, when this poem was written a professor at Montana State University, was frequently involved in both WINHEC and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).
* Jack Briggs was the visionary founding President of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.

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Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

40. The Shock of Rage

a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis

The shock of rage from cold black dragon eyes
Stunned through Ruarther like a wave unmanning
The man he once had been before he’d faced
Ssruanne upon his hunt inside the forest.
A second sight surrounded him and let
Him see the spirit bear who’d governed him
Inside miasma holding who he was
Together with intensity of hate
Directed at the witch, Wei’s mother, who
Was brewing constancy inside of chaos.
He saw the past, and how he’d cowered down
Behind the boulder with a frightened Cragdon
As black wings swooped from darkness at his life
And spewed out darkness in its raging hate
That wanted all humanity to die.

The dragon he had passed flinched azure scales
As blackness roiled into her mind and echoed
Into the other dragons in the snow
Around the rainbow human dragon, Wei.
Ruarther felt the threat inside the rage
And shook himself, the core of who he was.
He saw himself before the Old One, bow
Pulled back as terror raged inside of him.
He heard the Old One’s pleading words that tried
To move him to compassion for a child,
And flinched to feel him send an arrow’s flight
Toward a being who had meant no harm.
He felt the flame that blazed behind his back
And saw himself, as frightened as a deer,
Turn, run toward the deepness of the forest.
He’d never thought he’d ever be a coward,
But only cowards sought a spirit bear
So they could have the strength to leave themselves
And hunt a young girl child they could have saved.

He looked at where he was, his body pointed
Toward the capitol where Clayton lived.
He felt his fingers on the bowstring taut
With death aimed at the rainbow that was once
A child and felt Ruanne inside his mind.
He felt the love she felt for him in spite
Of all the madness that she knew possessed
The man he once had been, and felt the bow
Fall from his hands into the plateau’s snow,
The human dragon child, the rainbow dragon
Oblivious to who he was or where
He stood with deadly rage in front of her.

The chaos whirled around him as the bear
Discerned his presence in the roiling void
And lunged in desperation at the path
Now open to the earth he longed to see.
Ruarther did not flinch, but closed the path
Sshruunak had opened with his wave of rage.
He felt the fires and claws of war intrinsic
Inside the blackness that had made the dragons
Flinch from the rainbow miracle unfolding
In front of Wei’s small house below their caves.
He touched the beard now overgrown from weeks
Without a razor, tried to understand
The cowardness inside of who he was,
And felt the creeping of depression slide,
As subtle as a snake inside deep grass,
Into his arms and thoughts that dredged a loathing
He’d banished from his life while still a child.

But then he squared his shoulders imperceptibly.
He had a task to do. He’d always been
A hunter who had brought game when starvation
Was in the children’s haunted, frightened eyes.
He’d been afraid of dragon flame when he
Had failed to hear compassion in a dragon’s voice.
He’d failed the test of what it was to be
A human being as the test was taught by gods
And values buried in the life the village
Had passed through timeless generations.

He looked out at the dragons craning necks
And looking at the skies as if they dreaded
A message trumpeted into the day.
He knew his enemy, the night-black wings,
The flame that seared his flesh and nearly sent
His spirit to the grayness of the void.
He could not face Ruanne or those he’d known
And fed for all the years he’d spent alive.
He felt her as she warned the village, Reestor
Of war launched from a mountain valley out
Toward the place where sentinels for humans
Lived close to where the mountain dragons lived.
He saw that he had always been conflicted
Inside himself and turned the love he’d earned
Away and felt unspoken feelings never
Imagined by Ruanne, the villagers.
Awareness sapped already weakened strength.

He’d never make the village by the time
The warrior dragons started up their war.
No dragon on the plain’s white snow had spread
Their wings and taken flight, but everywhere
Eyes searched the skies and waited as the wave
Of blackness dissipated into air.

Ruarther looked at hands that held no bow.
They trembled slightly as he looked at them.
He turned toward the village, shrugged, and started
To run toward the home he’d always loved.
He hoped the dragons in the snow surrounding
The rainbow dragon did not mean to join
The war the night-black dragon meant to wage.
The village had no hope if all the dragons
Began to move against their human foes.

He had to pace himself; he had to try
To add his arms and wits against the storm
No human could escape once it had come.

To listen to this passage, click on The Shock of Rage

Note: This is the fortieth 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 To War! And Raging Dragon Hearts to read the passage before this one. To read the next passage click on Fate and Sentinels.


Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis