Tag Archives: poems

Player

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

When I awake
I will not go to the theater,
play parts, do different characters,
but will be who I am.

I will never go back
to that again,
but will go where
there is wilderness and wildlife,
running water, and laps of waves—

See snorting deer.
I am my raw self;
I have no rifle,
and my bent toward you
is harmony.

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Letter to an American Poet

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

I have waited for the prodigal son to arrive,
looking across the line of hills each day,
hoping to see his cherub-like face again—
but they say he is still in a distant land,
throwing away his inheritance,
living a debauched life.

For he has no real needs, they say.
Not like the Russians
Pasternak, Ginsburg, Yevtushenko,
Solzhenitsyn,
men of needs and wants
who cherish their inheritance
and are called sons.

I am waiting for you to come back to life again,
waiting to take the fattened young bull
out of his pen to celebrate your return.

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A Poet’s Becoming, Fionn’s Gift Across Time

by Thomas Davis

Fionn, son of Mairne, a Chief Druid’s daughter, was instructed by the Druid…to cook for him a salmon fished for a deep pool…and forbidden to taste it; but as Fionn was turning the fish over in the pan he burned his thumb, which he put into his mouth and so received the gift of inspiration. For the salmon was a salmon of knowledge, that had fed on nuts fallen from the nine hazels of poetic art. Robert Graves, The White Goddess. 1966 (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), p. 75.
 
Upon the dark dolomite jutting
Shoreline out into lake waters,
Brooding, the poet pondered, rising
Vapors misting white where otters
Often twisted brown bodies in brightness
During days of lithesome lightness.
 
Longing to discover poetry’s essence,
Plunging into intensifying agony,
Its agitated angst and strange candescence,
Searching for wisps of hope, honey
Spirited into hazel nuts fallen
Into waters fused with wisdom’s pollen,
 
Praying, the poet chanted phrases
Empty of meaning, madness exploding
Dystopian dreams into glazes
Filming stratums in mist, imploding
Into a dance of time: Land distinct,
Shrouding tales of peoples long extinct.
 
Milky mist rose from the waters.
Paddling in a coracle, Fionn,
Singing softly as sleek otters,
Angled after salmon in an eon
Ever-ending, inspiration
Infusing words into desperation.
 
Dancing in the poet’s pounding
Heartbeat, language’s lilting incantation
Metamorphosed landscapes, people’s living,
Into a singing suffusion of creation:
Fionn spanning time and continents,
Salmon swimming past despair to resonance.

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Night Ride

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Come with me,
down where the trees are,
for there is a line of sky
without clouds,
and soon the earth
will be the color of red honey.

Come with me,
for there is enough feed
for the horses,
and when we stop to sleep
we’ll keep the dogs close
to warm us.

Come with me,
for the songs of the Ancients
are calling.
Orion is straight above our heads,
and we must make
this night’s journey.

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Climber

by Ethel Mortenson Davis
001
This is the right time
of the year
to be a climber of trees,

trusting only
the youngest
and strongest limbs
with your life,

your cheek resting
on the nook
of a shoulder—

the right time
of the year
for fireball colors.

This is the place
where one can look
back below
to see if mankind
has become a race
of Renaissance men.

Not yet,
the climber says,
not yet.

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Planting the Wings of Monarch Butterflies

by Thomas Davis

In Southern Door an aging man, face fixed,
Pulled up beside a country road and walked
Toward a wooden fence where milkweed mixed
With grass and weeds, fall’s fiery colors stalked
Into a forest’s weave of summer green,
The season’s changing edged into the day.

Beside the fence the man bent down, serene,
Intent on picking milkweed pods, a fey
Gleam in his eyes. He got into his car
And drove until he found an empty field,
Stopped, pulled a pod out of a mason jar,
And freed milk fluff into a wind that wheeled
Time through the winter to a glorious spring
That sprung a summer graced with monarch wings.

Note: After reading an editorial by Peter Devlin in the Door County Advocate.

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Fellow Travelers

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The older Oriental woman
was not nice.
The younger men
that were of European descent
accompanied him.
Actually, they never
left his side.

He thought if he
went far enough away,
they would go away.
But they did not.

Even when he was dying
they frightened him.
That was why he moved
far away—to New York.
Perhaps all his problems
would go away.
But they did not.

He told us this at the last.
He didn’t want to hurt us.

When you were little
The voices in your head
were telling you things.

I made a mental note,
“Something is wrong.”

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Lesser World

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

I saw them
in strings,
making the shape of V’s,
Canadian Geese,

flying high enough
to use the lake’s edge
as their guide:
Blue-green water
with white foam
at the edges,
over rushes with dark red plumes
on their trek
southward.

For our world will
become lesser
without them,
not as full of life
as the wet summer
has been

while we wait
for the silent season
of winter—

and for the quiet winter
of our life,
a more diminished one,
a lesser world.

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2

by Thomas Davis

2

He talked about the mirror of the lake,
reflected trees and cloud and sky, the still
so absolute, the waters dark, opaque,
no wind, no breath, no birds, no human will
to mar the moment made for memory
entangled in the webs of days and hours
that jumble, jangle, pounce, drone, laugh, and flee
across and through the fields of flowers
surrounding us and all the love we miss
but know inside our livers, gall stones, hearts
as hours blend into hours and all our bliss
becomes a mirror that is but a part
of floating on a lake of trees and sky.

As rain begins to fall, a loon begins to cry.

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White Blossoms on a Branch

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

When all human
intervention has harmed us,
when all familia
have spent the fruits,
then the Great Spirit
gives to us our opening
from the darkness,

from the “going down
into the pit of our own agony,”

a candle,
a birth, a rite
into a new life.

Then we are assured—
like the mother tiger
who reassures her young
that they belong
to a family,
that they are important
in this world.

This is what it’s like—
White blossoms on a branch.

Note:  I owe the quotation and inspiration for this poem to Herron, Elizabeth.  2010.  Poetry for the Ear of God.

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