Tag Archives: old man

An Old Man’s Applause

by Thomas Davis

I was seven years old.
Mom insisted I was too sick to play an old man in a fake gray beard,
but I had worked hard to memorize my school play’s lines.
I was so sick I could hardly get out of bed.
I got up anyway, dressed in old man clothes
Mom had stitched out of Dad’s cast-off pants and shirts
and walked out of the house through darkened streets to Delta Elementary.
Back stage I half fainted when I saw
the auditorium packed with kids, parents, and grandparents.
Other kids and our teacher just accepted that I was there.

Feverish, I feverishly repeated lines over and over in my head
and fought my stomach’s queasiness.
Then the play about pioneering, wagon trains, and wilderness began.
When my turn came I walked teetering, the way I was supposed to, on stage.
My Mom had no idea where I was.

An old man, I sat on a stool covered with a painted cardboard stump,
voice quavering as if I was sixty years old and not just sick.
When I finished the audience broke into thundering applause.
I bowed quickly, went off-stage, down ancient wooden stairs,
and went outside where the Milky Way flowed light toward the horizon.


Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis


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.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, poems, Poetry

Desperation’s Providence

A Droighneach by Thomas Davis

Crazed, the old man fled frightened from the house, unsettled
By spirit’s substance bled by the luminescence
Of energy, jangling jags nettled and re-nettled,
Made garish by the city’s flickering fluorescence.

Furious, he’d run to the dock, waters turbulent
On wet rock, his son’s stinging words echoing
Inside his head. He shoved his drumming discontent
Into a raging rhythm fed into his paddling.

Piercing into the moonlit island’s illumination,
Ancestral roots, rising from memories,
Deracinated, raging blood sparking rumination
Unlocked from a childhood’s flood of fantasies

Fulminating feelings long forgotten,
But still a song inside his consciousness.
He heard a singing unlike the jangling begotten
Of tangling time racing through his need to decompress.

Deciding suddenly, spirit wild, ascendant,
The child inside inspired, the old man, elated,
Grabbed his hand-held drum, descendants
Alive inside the meld decision’s dream created.

Climbing craggy cliffs where dark pines cling silhouettes
Against moon-silvered sky, spring serenading
Night as fields sigh slender, long-grass pirouettes
Beneath a breeze’s arc of shadow-waves cascading,

Carefree, careful, the old man seeks an overhang
Where cedars circle a coal-dark pool reflective
Of sky, human spirit whole, a boomerang
Fastening the eye on an earlier-earth perspective.

Palpitating lightning pulsed eeriness.
Above the old man moonlight convulsed, uncanny,
Until the sky-fire’s fury began to evanesce
Into circled cedars, dark-pool waters unearthly.

Unmanned, heart hammering, he stared at the intersperse
Of emptiness between stars, his son’s voice gravelling
In silence, “Stupid old man, your useless universe
Is cold dead bizarre,” he’d said. “Clueless! Repelling!”

Re-singing songs inside his head, immensity
In his breath, he stutter-stepped into a cataract
Of movement, dancing wildly, whirling festivity
Around the pool as he tried to counteract

Cacophony jangling madness, mauling senselessness
Into a waning world of troubled turbulence
As stars shining on the pool began to effloresce,
Out of his desperate dance, recovering providence.


A Droighneach is an ancient Irish, or Celtic, form of poetry. It is not commonly used by contemporary poets, although both Gerald Manley Hopkins, through his experiments with sprung rhythm, and Dylan Thomas, a bit more obscurely, modified old Celtic forms for their own purposes. This poem came about when Cynthia Jobin, an American poet who blogs at littleoldladywho.net, discovered that Nick Moore (gonecyclingagain.com) and I were challenging each other to write Spenserian and Italian sonnets rather than our usual work with the Shakespearean rhyme forms. Cynthia’s response was, “Say….I have an idea. Let’s all try to write a DROIGHNEACH …..(.Just kidding.I haven’t life enough, or time…..).” On St. Patrick’s Day I started what turned into an agonizing struggle to write a Droighneach. In the meantime Ina Shroders-Zeeders, a poet and writer from the Netherlands (inaweblogisback.wordpress.com), produced one in response to the conversation between Cynthia and I, which triggered Cynthia to write a traditional praise Droighneach to Ina’s effort.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

Shades of Geese Dredged Out of Time

by Thomas Davis

The old man walks into the cedar forest.
Cold waves rise up to thunder white-capped rage
Against dark dolostone cloaked white with snow.
The twisted trunks of trees, born in an age
Long past, reach out into the old man’s path
And clutch at bearskin boots as black as night.
Time whorls as lightning jags above the slate
Of waves, and thunder dances cloudy light
Into a rush of wilding, whistling wind.

The old man stands upon a cold, high ledge
Inside the wierding winter of the storm
And stares at ice congealed from clouds of mist
That glitter as a shining spray transforms
The frigid air into a swirl of light
Reflecting darkness from the dolostone.
The old man sighs, and in an ancient voice
Begins to sing, his voice a toneless drone.

Out of the icing mist a flock of geese
Fly, wings a whir, from cresting, foaming waves.
Behind them shades of geese, dredged out of time,
Come streaming from the darkness of the caves
Beneath the old man’s ledge shined black with ice.
The old man lifts his arms and tries to see,
Inside the mist of time, what fate is threaded
Into the heartbeats of humanity.

The cedar forest snakes its roots through stone.
The storm’s crescendo rises as the lightning
Disperses fire above the raging waves.
Snow whips through wind, a hail-hard stinging
That bites through deerskin clothes into cold flesh
And brings cold tears into the old man’s eyes.
Tears freeze; the geese shades disappear; the man
Stands blind beneath the fury of the skies.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis


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
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.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

Crosswalk in Paris

by Alazanto, Kevin Davis, our son

Crosswalk November 15, 2009C


Filed under Art, Photography

Old Man

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The old man
had a rind to him.

You could tell
by the way
his mouth
shaped his words.

He knew
what the land
could produce
and what it could not.

His cells knew
what to grow,
going back
to his ancestors
in the Iberian Peninsula.

They told him
what plants to use
for curing illnesses
and what plants
were good for food.

He didn’t see
these connecting lines
in his sons,

but he saw them
in his granddaughter,
in the way she kneeled
near the plant.

He felt the lines
going back
to ancient lands
in the way
she touched
the sheep.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

12. Weaving and Dragon Song

by Thomas Davis

Ruanne sat by the small triangle window,
The morning light a comfort past the storm.
She pumped the small wood loom and fed the strands
Of hair from mountain sheep into the shuttle,
Her hands in constant rhythm as she wove
Each row of heavy cloth into a rug
That metamorphosed howling winds and clouds.

She tried to concentrate upon the wisdom
Of Selen who, upon her loom, had woven
The weaving of a man and woman’s flesh
So human love could populate the world,
But all her efforts skittered like the beads
Of bear grease on a blazing, black iron pan.
Thoughts turned to images: Ruarther caught
By madness, storming from her life to wilderness,
Snow fields a glittering in morning light.

A knocking broke into her reverie.
She deftly tied the weaving so the row
Of gray and blue would stay in place for later,
Got up, and greeted Reestor at the door.
The old man looked pale, weary in the light,
His deep eyes ringed below white eyebrows sweeping
Toward white hair that covered half his forehead.
She smiled and stood aside to let him stomp
Into the cottage, cold around him biting
Into the room warm from the morning fire.

“You’re early for your rounds,” she said, her sadness
Surprising her inside her too soft voice.

Inside his heavy coat he looked more like
A bear than just a man, she thought. A wildness clung
To all the men who hunted for the game
That let the village live through winter storms.
She wondered if she ought to leave her cottage
And make the journey to the nearest town.
Ruarther was the one who’d kept her here.

But now? She smiled as Reestor growled as if
He truly was a bear. He shrugged his coat
Off shoulders strengthened by the years he’d spent
Outdoors before they’d made him village leader.
He walked toward the fire, put out his hands,
Then turned to look into her dark green eyes.

“I saw my father and my brother die,” he said.
“I didn’t live here then. I moved here later–
When Mother couldn’t stand the thought of Breenan.
Two dragons came upon the town all fire.
You seldom saw more than a single dragon then.
My father took his great long bow and hit
The older dragon, Pphhitin, in his one good eye.
The younger, Mmirimann, went wild
His breath so hot it fired the town’s wood roofs;
His claws sent dozens to their early graves.

“The great green brute not only burned our house,
But Mmirimann flung down upon my father,
The dragon killer, scorching flesh with fire.
He left the body black as smoky quartz,
So burned light seemed translucent through
The skull left bare without a shred of flesh.
The smell still visits me at night sometimes.
My brother tried to drive a metal spear
In Mmirimann, but didn’t have the strength.
The dragon swatted him away and speared
A broken rib into his young man’s heart.”

Ruanne stood silent, waiting. Reeston looked
At memories he’d long ago suppressed.
He suddenly looked up into her eyes.

“I don’t like kings,” he said. “The rich men live
Rich lives while those of us who find survival
In places where the rich would never live
Develop bonds much stronger than privation,
But Clayton’s Peace has given us good lives.
No human, or a dragon’s, died from war
For nearly all the years I’ve lived. But now…”

Ruanne still did not speak, but waited, spirit
So taut it seemed as if she ought to scream.

“We see more dragons in the sky each year,”
He said at last. “They have evolved, and we
Are still the humans that we’ve always been.
Ruarther’s craziness will stir their hearts
And bring about rage we have never faced.”

Ruanne let out the breath she’d held too long.
She shook her head. “I know,” she said. “But what?”
She paused. “The witch’s daughter shouldn’t die.
The children in the village shouldn’t face
The rage of dragon fire and raking claws.”

Determined, Reestor looked at her. “You know
The Dragon Songs,” he said. “You’ve heard them sung
Inside your head. You have to let them know
Ruarther’s left our village, lost his mind…”

“I’ve never said I hear the songs,” Ruanne said softly.

“I see it in your eyes, the way you shine inside,”
The old man said. “I’ve lived too long a life.
I hardly sleep, but still, you’re like the witch’s child.”

His words struck like a blow. She was a witch?

“Ruarther’s left me all alone,” Ruanne said.
“I’ve loved him since we both were children… babes…”

“He’s gone, Ruanne. You’ve got to let him go.”

“I’ve never spoken to a dragon, never…
They’ll never answer me… they’ll never hear…”

“You’ve got to try. The children don’t deserve
To die because Ruarther caused a war
That humans cannot hope to ever win.”

Ruanne escaped from Reestor’s burning eyes
And looked at where she’d sat upon the loom.
She shook her head. What could she really do?
She said a silent prayer to sagacious Selen.
She’d always forced the dragon’s songs away.
She was her mother’s child, not witch’s sister.
She’d known the mountain witch, but never once
Felt like they had a bond of flesh or blood…
She looked at Reestor, panic in her eyes.
She talked to dragons, villagers would drive
Her into wilderness, hate’s refugee.

The village children couldn’t die, not if
She had abilities that might protect them.
The old man looked past eyes into her heart.

Audio of Weaving and Dragon Song

Note: This is the twelfth installment of a long poem. 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 to reach other sections, or go to the Categories box to the right under The Dragon Epic. Click on 1 to go to the beginning and read forward. Go to 11 to read the section before this one. Click1 13 to go forward to the next section.


Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis

First Laugh

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The old poet,
thrown out,
weeps across
the desert
until he climbs
the rim of the canyon,
and there he takes
a page from his book
and writes,

“There is a canyon people
who celebrate the first laugh
of their children.”


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry