Tag Archives: poem


by Ethel Mortenson Davis



An astronaut that repaired
the Hubble spacecraft
said recently
that when he stepped out
on his first spacewalk
and saw the lighted
blue and white earth
underneath him,

he knew
he was looking
at heaven.

I wonder how
we would have thought
of the land, the animals,
and the people
if we would have known
our earth was heaven?

If this was all the heaven
there will ever be?


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Photography, Poetry

Ethel Mortenson Davis poem featured in Write On Door County’s website

Write on Door County is one of the premier writer’s retreats in the Midwest.  In addition to providing a 40 acre property in the woods that attract writers who want to refresh their spirits and spend a week or so writing, Write On provides workshops, readings, and what sometimes an endless round of events for writers and those interested in writing.

Ralph Murre and Sharon Auberele, two of Door County’s absolutely finest poets, publish a different Door County poet on the website on a regular basis.  On August 1 they published Ethel’s poem, “The Design Teacher.”  You can see the poem at http://writeondoorcounty.org.  While you’re on the site you might look around if you are at all interested in writing and writers.


Filed under Essays


by Thomas Davis

My middle brother Gary died of cancer while I was in Grand Junction, Colorado to see him one last time a couple of weeks ago.  This is a difficult free verse poem to publish in wordpress because of its long line, but I wanted to publish it in his honor.  The story itself really happened.

Nights in hospital rooms were over:
Antiseptic smells, constant pain, medicine that took you from
yourself, fluorescent lights, a bed that cranked up and down.
Now Gary, my brother, and I were sitting on the car porch,
his foot in a cast, agonizing nights of pain behind him,
my leg in a cast so uncomfortable I could hardly move.

“Hunting season starts today,” Gary noted with understated
“Yeah,” I said, “and we’re stuck here in these casts.”

Gary pointed at the jeep sitting in the driveway.
It hadn’t been driven for two months.

“In the hospital Jim Fennell told me hunting’s pretty good
around Paonia,” he said.
“He came to see me after he left you.”
“And how do we get to Paonia?” I asked. “I can’t clutch and step
on the gas.
We only have two good legs between us.”

Gary looked speculatively at the jeep. “But we have two good
legs,” he said.
“Hunting season started at dawn,” I said, knowing I wasn’t
saying anything.
“If we left now we could get up there a little after noon,” Gary

I reached for my crutches. He was holding his crutches.
Three minutes later we were in the jeep mimicking driving with
two good legs.
I stepped on the clutch; Gary stepped on the gas.
We decided that if we had to stop quick we’d let the engine die
as I braked.
Otherwise we’d work it out.

Thirty minutes later we were hauling happily out of Orchard Mesa
toward Delta,
rifles in the back seat, and sure we were going to get a couple
of bucks
even though climbing a hill was tantamount to ending up in the
emergency room.

At Fool’s Hill, named for those who’d slid off the highway into
empty space,
a coyote loped onto the road and stopped, looking calmly at the
As I swerved, Gary took his foot off the gas and touched the
We swung around the fool animal sweet as you please.
Neither of us could stop congratulating each other on our
driving skill.

By the time we’d come to the Paonia turnoff, we were getting
and I was wondering what we thought we were doing.
Neither of us had been out of the hospital a week,
and the kitchen table note we’d left
was bound to get Mom so agitated Dad would be in the Ford
driving like a mad man toward where we said we were going.
Gary was manic, though. Hunting season was open.
Nobody could keep us down.

From Paonia we started up into the hills on a boulder filled
dirt track.
Three miles from pavement we pulled into a meadow exhausted.
Clutching, shifting, leg-reaching, hand and arm coordination
caused by two teenagers doing one teenager’s job wasn’t working.
Once the jeep had stopped we sat in our seats
and stared at the country where we found ourselves,
five miles from where our note said we’d be.
Where we were was a nightmare for two boys
who still hadn’t figured out how to carry rifles
swinging across uneven ground on crutches.
Surrounding the small meadow where we’d parked,
hills were littered with stone shelves and thickets of scrub oak.

After a minute Gary said, “Looks like good deer country to me,”
and he was out of the jeep, figuring out how he was going to
carry his 30.06.
Back home we’d managed by pressing the gun butt against the
and slowly making our way to the jeep.
But we couldn’t hold gun and crutches that tight while climbing.
At last Gary unbuckled his belt and tied the rifle to his right

An hour later, hurting so bad neither of us could stand the pain,
we had climbed our first hill and were staring at a small wash
snaked through twisted slopes, a nightmare of rock and brush.
I sat down and looked at the anguish on Gary’s face.
Why had I been so eager to go along with a fool idea?
Wasn’t I the oldest? Shouldn’t I have been the one with good

Then Gary’s face lit up, and he grinned as if he’d hit the
world’s biggest jackpot.
He bent down to unstrap the 30.06 from his crutch.
A two point buck walked out of scrub oak in the wash below us
and stood looking at where we were standing.

I wasn’t prepared for the shot when Gary fired.
I slid off the sloping rock where I was sitting and found myself
with my leg higher than my head with no idea how I was going to
get myself
back up on the rock so that I could leverage to my feet.

Gary started shouting like a mad man: “I got it!” he yelled. “I
got it!”

He’d shot the buck?
The thought dimly forced itself through my dilemma.
How were we going to get the buck, our rifles, and ourselves out
of the wash, up the hill, down the hill, and into the jeep
so we could drive home?
How were we going to drive home when we were both on our last

I stared at Gary, watched him hobble through a victory dance,
and thought, “Damned you’ve been stupid, Tom.”
Then, leg throbbing and burning up in my cast, I maneuvered to
my feet.

“Come on, Tommy,” Gary said. “Let’s get this sucker and then go
out and get you one!”

I stared at my brother. Who was he anyway?
“How are we going to carry a buck out of here?” I asked.

Gary looked at me, startled. “We’ll drag it,” he said.
“Won’t do the hide any good, but I got my buck first day of
hunting season.”

“Have you figured out how we’re going to get into the wash?” I
“Why should I worry about that?” Gary shot back, clearly puzzled.
“We just get down there, put a rope around the buck, and drag it

“Your foot hurt?” I asked.
He shot me a look of pure malice.
“Of course my foot hurts,” he snarled. “So does your leg.”
He looked at the sky. “Sunset will be here before we get back to
the jeep.”

I didn’t say anything, but put crutches beneath arm pits
and started struggling through thick brush.

Once we got into the wash I strained to hold dead weight high
for Gary to tie rope around the buck’s neck.
Then Gary tied the rope around his waist and started making his
way up the hill.

An hour and a half later, sun going down, I had the rope around
my waist.
Gary wasn’t talking anymore. Sheer guts and pain had silenced
I’d suggested we give up and leave the buck for later,
but he’d gotten so upset I thought he might start hitting me,
so we struggled, fighting uphill until we could see the jeep.
Then I carefully put crutches downhill as far as I dared,
planted points into ground and dragged downward,
cussing silently at pain, my idiocy, and my stupid, stupid

When Dad finally came up the dirt road, headlights on,
he parked and heard us shouting.
He climbed the hill, took one look at Gary, then me, then the
then shook his head and said, “You two.”

Without another word he untied the rope from my waist,
grabbed the buck’s horns, hoisted it onto his shoulders,

and carried it toward the jeep.
Off the hill he looked at the jeep, catching his breath,
and said, “We’ll take the car home. We’ll get the jeep tomorrow.”

Gary fell asleep before we’d gotten off the dirt road.
Dad winced every time the car crept over a boulder and scraped
its frame.
He kept silent so long I couldn’t stand silence any longer.

“I was a damned fool,” I said at last. “I shouldn’t have gotten
us in this mess.”

Dad didn’t say anything for a long time.
Silence ached with recriminations and regret.
“At least you left a note,” he said at last. “A wise man always
leaves a note.”

We turned off the dirt road toward Paonia.
I squirmed in my seat and wondered how Gary could sleep through
his pain.
In the hospital I’d heard him wake up screaming in the middle of
the night.
Then the car tire’s humming weighed down eyelids, and I fell
knowing a man ought to do more than “leave a note” in life.


Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis

Invocation to the Epic Muse

by Thomas Davis

The string's untuned! Degree, priority
And place, insisture, course, proportion, form,
Season, office, custom–all are made
Disordered, mutinous, as unified
As raging seas and shaking earth. Stability is shaked.
Commotion in the winds and changes, frights
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate.
The Clockwork Universe is dead![1]  And God,
Our Father who art in heaven, does play dice[2].
Planck’s constant[3] proves that Heisenberg’s
Uncertainty[4] is fundamental in the universe.
We look at light as if it’s made of waves,
Then see it’s made of particles that smear.
Quarks[5] live! And yet, they’re probability, a sea
That crests and falls, appears and disappears
Until, at last, improbably, uncertain, mad
With change that computations photograph,
Light is, we are, the universe exists.

I walk in Purgatory looking up
Toward the shining Earthly Paradise.
I long to see the Griffon bathed in light
Inside the Garden where the Tree of Good
And Evil grows. I long to feel the weights
Imposed upon me by the Angel Guardian
Before the Gate of Purgatory lifted off
My spirit as I rise toward a Purity of Heart. [i]

I long to be a Greek, like Kazantzakis, wild,
Sun on my head so that its Song of Light
Can spray the earth, the global grape, with life.
I am Odysseus with my long coarse hair
And body hardened by black brine, the great
Mind archer, the forty-footed dragon wreathed
With steaming blood, reflected light, and flame![ii]

I follow Virgil as he presses on apace
With darkness-wrapped Aeneas and his friend
Achates through the rough-hewn citadel
Of Carthage being built by Dido, Queen.
The cloud that swirls before my eyes is magical.
I walk down city streets among a crowd
Unseen, amazed that none perceive me there.
Then, later on, I hear the voice
Of Mercury who bids me leave the joy
Of Carthage and my love for Dido’s eyes
And go to found the Trojan city, Rome.[iii]

But gravity bends space and time, and though
I am a poet, “redy to wenden on
My pilgrymage, “[iv] and though I sit inside
This summer’s heat and pray my muse: Sing me. . .
”And through me tell the story of that man. . .,” [v]
and though I wish to find a hero large enough
To roam the wide world after he has sacked
The holy citadel of Troy, I am American,[vi]
A polyglot whose being is becoming, he
Whose language was confused at Babel, he
Whose light was scattered on the face of earth,
Mankind whose particles act just like waves.

What mutiny runs through the song I sing!
Community and brotherhood contend
For order, shatters, builds, then bends to change.
As Sitting Crow kneels in his cold garage
He dreams that glory can be forged from pain.
He is the first American, black hair, black eyes.
Beside him, on the concrete floor, are stolen tires.
A part of living, reproducing, dying earth,
He sits inside the cold garage and dreams.
He laughs at death and wraps into its dark,
Holds fires of glory in his hands and throws
Out globes of flame into the darknesses
That plague his people’s lives:

And drug addiction, poverty, and squalidness
That wraps its cloak about the Reservation towns,
Each dawn so hopeless that it spreads a dull,
Blank dread inside the streaming morning light.
He dreams, and like a planet throned and sphered
By gravity, he bends time, government, and space
Into the universe that whorls out from his dream.
He strives to rent the fabric of America,
But makes, instead, a symbol of the way
That chaos builds complexity, which leads,
According to a probability distribution not
Yet computated, to a glory that might yet become.

O, listen to the winds inside my mind,
O muse, O Calliope, Moon Woman, water mixed
Into the Hippocrene’s deep well where Pegasus
Once struck his hoof and made a drinking place
For poets mad enough to court their frenzied dreams.
Stir up my words inside the winds and make
A tempest strong enough to bear this tale.
I am a man and not a god. I wear the cloak
Humility has fashioned for my race
Of kindred hearts and spirits. Only you,
O muse, O Calliope, can let my song
Run wild among the stars and worlds found there.
I sing of war and of men at war. . .

[1] Sir Isaac Newton, the great physicist and mathematician, saw the universe as having the regularity and celestial mechanisms of a clock.
[2] Albert Einstein, in response to the quantum physics, exclaimed that God does not play dice with the universe.  Einstein believed in saying this that the universe is governed by unified laws and principles.
[3] Planck’s discovery unifies the seemingly contradictory observations that energy sometimes acts like a wave and at other times acts as if it is made up of particles.
[4] A principle in quantum mechanics holding that increasing the accuracy of measurement of one observable quantity increases the uncertainty with which another conjugate quantity may be known.
[5] A physical particle that forms one of the two basic constituents of matter, the other being the lepton.
[i] Alegieri, Dante, The Purgatorio, translated by John Ciardi (New York:  New American Library, 1957).
[ii] Kazantzakis, Nikos, The Odyssey, A Modern Sequel, translated by Kimon Friar (New York:  Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1958).
[iii] Virgil, The Aeneid, translated by Robert Fitzgerald (New York:  Vintage Classics, Random House, Inc., 1990).
[iv] Chaucer, Geoffrey, “Prologue,” The Canterbury Tales (Ruggiers, Paul G., General Editor, facsimile of the Hengwrt Manuscript (Norman, OK:  University of Oklahoma Press and Wm. Dawson and Sons, Ltd., Folkestone, 1979).
[v] Homer, The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald (New York:  Vintage Classics, Random House, Inc., 1990).
[vi] Modified from Virgil, The Aeneid, translated by Robert Fitzgerald (New York:  Vintage Classics, Random House, Inc., 1990.

Note: I have written two epics. This “Invocation to the Epic Muse” introduces one I wrote decades ago, An American Spirit, An American Epic. It is considerably longer than “The Dragon Epic.”


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis


By Ethel Mortenson Davis

I have been a soliloquy
upon the landscape–
A letter on the horizon’s poem.

I have been accustomed
to aloneness.
We travel well
She has been with me
when I searched
the deep forest
as a child
now in the desert,
allowing me to be
who I am,
learning from the sacred earth—
the poetic ground.

She has made me
like the coral desert blossom
I picked yesterday
and found in my pocket
still fresh, still alive,
still vibrant,
drawing from the deep water
held tightly

© 2010, I Sleep Between the Moons of New Mexico


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

9. Ruarther’s Threat

by Thomas Davis

As Reestor glared at him, Ruarther felt
As if he’d turned to stone, his spirit hard
And eyes as cold as when the wall of ice
Had overtaken him inside the field.

“We’ve been at peace with dragons much too long
To start a war with them,” the old man said.
“You’re dreaming’s not enough to have them fly
Above us as their breaths chars all we love.”

“It was no dream,” Ruarther growled, his temper blazing.
“The dragon singed me with her stream of fire!
We have to kill the witches’ girl, or else
The world will change in ways that weird us all!”

Ruanne, disoriented, looked at her only love.
He’d kill the child? She’d dreamed of having children
Since childhood, playing with her handmade dolls.
What child had powers strong enough to cause
Grown men to quail before their unlived lives?
She tried to see inside Ruather’s rage
And understand what fear was driving him.
A hundred times she’d thought she’d earned his love,
But every time he’d danced away from her.

“Why do you meld the dragon with the child?”
A stubborn Reestor asked, eyes fixed on rage.
The man was weak yet, still affected by
The storm he’d barely made it through to home.

Around them half the village stood inside
The hall, the argument a bane when winter
Was harsh enough to threaten all of them
If they could not depend on long-term braids
To knit their wills together as they strove
To live until the distant, longed-for spring.

“The dragon spoke about the child,” Ruarther spat.
“Why wouldn’t they be linked? She spoke of her.
If not from spelling by the witch’s child,
Why would a dragon speak again to men?”

Old Molly grasped Ruanne’s slim hand and hissed.
“You’re young, young man,” she said. “Your blood runs hot
Or else you would have known what good is yours.
You’re foolish. In the past we fought the dragons,
And many died, but then the dragons seldom
Attacked unless they were alone, but now
They have communities just like this place.
If stirred, they’ll come together in a pack.”

Ruanne felt like she ought to scream the swirl
Of roiling feelings trapped inside her chest.

“The storm is done,” Ruarther said. “I’ll go.
It doesn’t matter what the village thinks.
I see the danger rising in a cloud,
and like I’ve brought back game when others failed,
I’ll save the village from temerity.
The weirding’s got to stop. The girl is dead.”

Ruanne heard children screeching in the snow.
The storm was over. Now they’d laugh and sing
As if the awful winds and cold had never been.
Inside her mind she felt the dragons flying
In multi-colored packs, an endless stream
Of fire and deadly claws out of their caves.

“I’m leader still. Not you, not yet. You won’t
Go up the mountain,” Reestor said. “We need
More meat. The hunters have to hunt for game.”

Ruarther glared at him. He glanced at Brand.
The hunter looked away as if he heard
His young ones as they worked to dig a path
Between the cottages through feet of snow.
At last Brand looked into Ruarther’s eyes.

“No hunter has your strength or skill,” he said.
“You need to throw your madness out and be
The leader that you’ve always been for us.”

“Nobody understands,” Ruarther said,
His bitterness a rancor in his voice.
“Nobody felt the heat of dragon flame.”
He turned and looked toward the hall’s great door.
He looked at Reestor. “I have always done
What’s good for all of us,” he said. “I’m certain
Deep down that what I’m doing’s for the best.”

Before the men around him moved, he strode
Toward the door, his face implacable.

Ruanne took flight outside her thoughts, her feelings
As raw as skin upon the head of children
Brought out into the light outside the womb.

“You’re wrong,” she heard herself say, voice as sharp
As sharpened knives. “You cannot kill the child!
To kill a child forever marks the soul
With blackness stained into an evil life.”

Ruarther stopped and looked into her panicked eyes.

“I’ll love you all my life,” he said, voice loud.

He turned, picked up his bow, plowed through the snow
Toward the stone wall built around the village.
Inside the hall a hunter, Cragdon, startled,
Then left the hall to join Ruarther’s rage.
His young wife grabbed at him, missed, wailed with fear.
The young man did not stop or even pause.

Audio of Ruarther’s Threat

Note: This is the eighth 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, 8 to read the installment before this one. Click on 10 to read the next section.


Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis, Uncategorized

Old Woman

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

i the old woman,
with breath on my hand,
have come before–
down this hill with stoney sides–

have come
the spears of grass
against my legs–

and then the sea
and its green smells
after the rain–
until this garden.

i have come
the flowers to be richer
in the coming spring,
reaching out for their smell
with only my finger tips,
sitting awhile,
and waiting.

i the old woman
have passed
the sea
many times,
not looking
at the whale
of the waves,
thinking i have



Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

The Deer

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

You came to the edge of the woods today
to catch my eye.
My dog did not see you, though,
young girl-deer.

You came to tell me “thank you,”
or so it seemed that way,
for digging you out of the mud yesterday.

Flailing, you were caught up to your neck.
My dog and I saw you
throwing your head from side to side, exhausted—
on our walk in the rain-soaked morning.

Two came to dig you out,
and, after resting, you got up
and ran away.

So today you came back with gratitude,
or your face looked that way—
like my long lost daughter.
You came to make me understand
that you were full of thankfulness,
to catch my eye,
or so it seemed that way.

Copyright © 2010, I Sleep Between the Moons of New Mexico


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

Sonnet 34

by Thomas Davis

We talked about the birthday cake he’d had
for over twenty years. He couldn’t eat,
but said, I’d eat a bite right now. His mother, glad
to feed his memories, got to her feet
and drove to Rhinebeck for the right supplies,
the afternoon familiar as she whipped and stirred
an angel food and let it slowly rise
into an arabesque of whipped cream whirred
with Marciano cherries, chocolate,
and mother’s love as old as he was on that day.
She brought the cake out with a coffee pot
and beamed to see a smile and sense of play

that fought, a moment, pain and hours of dread
he braved while in the prison of his bed.

Note:Kevin and Tamar’s apartment, where we spent two weeks under Hospice care, is located in Rhinesbeck, NY.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

A Short Bird

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

short bird
came today
to lie in the snow.
He told me
he was forgetting
how to fly
and forgot
how the sky
looked at night,
and he told me
he was forgetting
how he wanted to fly
(upside down sometimes),
and how he wanted
to sit on the top
of some tree he knew,

and he forgot forgetting there,
and the snow came
and covered his scream,
and he forgot nothing.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry