Friday, March 16, 2012

What Else?

What else worth remembering have I forgotten? I've been reading Utah writer/poet Emma Lou Thayne's new book A Place of Knowing. I have known Emma Lou for many years, appreciated her poetry and her anti-war sentiments--once in a peace march downtown during the first George Bush's war in the Middle East, where we ended up on the state capitol's steps to hear her (and others) speak. My young son Marc, about twelve at the time, carried a home-made cardboard sign on a stick that said in red letters: NOT ONE MORE DROP OF BLOOD. I remember on the way up, there were people on the sidewalks jeering at us. Some even spit at us. I remember that. I don't remember what she said. She writes, "So much of our mental space is occupied by reverie, mostly about ourselves--how we did or will do this or that, what we'll do in an hour or next month, wishing, fearing, worrying...."

Paying attention has never been easy for me. In high school I daydreamed my way through algebra and geometry. At the university I skimmed my way through French and biology. I've performed in numbers of plays from which I cannot recall a single line.

Late in 1986, Emma Lou spoke at an event, "a unique celebration for peace on the last day of the year. At noon Greenwich time, people worldwide would simultaneously pray and meditate for peace. Noon in Greenwich was four a.m. in Salt Lake City, and on New Year's Eve! Fifty million people in fifty-six countries were expected to participate... Now when all else had so lamentably failed where peace was concerned, why not prayer...on a global scale?"

Wouldn't you think I would remember such an occasion, if I had been there? It was not until I read about it that I eerily remembered that I had, in fact, been there. Reading Emma's words recounting the experience, a sort of gauze lifted in my mind--a really spooky kind of levitation possessed me, like seeing a vision. I remembered the dark cold morning, the hundreds of cars on the streets, in parking lots and along the curbs. My dear friend Nila and I walked in the dark for blocks to Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus, where readers and musicians from sixteen cultures took their places on the stage. Emma Lou was one of them. They spoke of "peace, diversity, heritage. In the language of their tradition, one by one, Navajo, Greek Orthodox, Mormon, Catholic, Baptist, all took their turns. Between musical numbers came prayers and readings--Hebrew, Iranian, Baha'i, Hindu and Islam. Percussion--sometimes just a run of bells--indicated a change of mood. After an aged Lowell Bennion read from the Book of Mormon, a twelve-year-old African American Baptist boy read in Swahili from the new testament.

"Finally, Robyn Simper, general organizer of the event, read about forgiveness and lit a candle on the darkened stage. For seven minutes the hall was silent...then music professor Ardean Watts came forward and lifted his arms and the whole hall rose to sing 'Let There Be Peace On Earth, and Let It Begin With Me.'...We joined hands and raised them over our heads and smiled...."

I remember it now, Emma Lou! I was there, I participated. I was there! How, even over these many years, could I have ever forgotten?

Thank you, Sister Thayne, for giving me this gift, this memory!


Thursday, December 15, 2011



a breaking of waters
like every other birth,
and pain, before the first cry.

There was a star, perhaps a supernova
spilling radiant gases into the void,
perhaps a confluence of planets.

His first words may have been Egyptian,
but the schoolboys, he among them,
circled at the Rabbi's feet, learned Torah,

knew sacrifice, and love, and loss.
He drew us in by blood, by suffering;
every one of us balancing in air, all newly blossomed and


Friday, October 21, 2011

New Poem

The Drowning Woman

has gone under twice.
She thinks how more than two-thirds of her life
has passed, so soon, before her eyes.
Treading memories for a long time now,
she catches pieces of visions at the shoreline,
where flaxen-haired children
wave and call out to her,
rising from the sweet solid ground. Spent,
she leans toward them, willing them to stay.

The present is all deep water
pulling her farther away from that young woman
reclining on a blanket, her skin glistening with oil.
Her husband empties sand from his shoes,
while their children run
through shallow waves endlessly lapping,
lapping where the sand sparkles with seashells.
The sun is butter.
The children wave and call again before her third sinking.
The drowning woman longs to touch them,
can almost reach them with her outstretched arms.
Her legs run in place
as they have always done.

The past is breath in her mouth, opened
in despair, singing the words of
The Grateful Dead: My love for you will not
fade away, not fade away.

The future is light drifting like water,
light emptying itself on the white
beaches of the earth, on the sidewalks of cities,
at roadsides where the dying watch
from the corners of their eyes
their own ghosts rising,
crying out that love, love
will not fade away.

Joyce Ellen Davis 10/18/11

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Family Pictures

A chilly morning. My first taste of the day: warm Coke left on my desk last night. My little dog has trouble getting on and off the bed, so I lift her, and she kisses me. We limp together out into a new day. Sun's up, sky is blue. I see the family pictures we had taken last month when we were all together are up on the computer. I view them twice, they are good, I love seeing them! I love that these are my sons and their wives, my grandchildren, my sweet husband (who I argued with yesterday over trivial stuff, just stupid stuff). I love them all "to the end of every day's most quiet need," as Emily wrote. My whole body warms. ..."with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life...."

Fried Green Peppers

Last night monstrous barrels full of lightning rolled across the sky, scattering bolts every which way, followed by buckets and buckets of rain. It's been like this every night for a week. Days are hot and blue, and the sun's fried my peppers on the vine.

Arrow of Time/Time Reversal

Early this morning, sometime between the hours of 3 and 4 am, I woke up worrying. In that quiet, with the dog snoring softly in the curve at the back of my knees, and my husband's cpap machine inhaling and exhaling on the other side of the bed, I worried and worried and couldn't make my poor old brain let go of it: Newton's Second law of thermodynamics, entropy, and the Arrow of Time. What these say, as I understand it, is that all warm things will grow cold, that over time things break down, fall apart, and ultimately disappear entirely. As in the universe and everything in it.

Now, what I was worrying about was this: there is a law of Conservation of energy which says that the total amount of energy in a system remains constant over time, and that energy can neither be created or destroyed, but only changed from one state to another. Even in the process of Annihilation particles are not actually annihilated, but are changed into new particles.

Then there is the thing called Time Reversal, T-symmetry, T-asymmetry. How do all these things manage to work together? Do they? Sounds like they are at odds to me. I'm just saying.

Can somebody help me out here, so I won't have to spend another sleepless night?

Purity of Opposites

Wasn't home much yesterday. We took the boys skating for an end-of-summer blast. And then had pizza. We got home late, and I stood out and watched the moon. The Moon is truly a beautiful thing seen through binoculars. You can see craters. Shadows. Rings of light. I stayed out a few minutes more and looked at stars and listened to crickets. One of my favorite Summer-Things-To-Do is watching stars and listening to crickets. Simultaneously. I do it every summer. I look forward to it, from June until November. It absolutely blows me away! The extremes of it! Like lounging in a steaming hot tub of water while it is snowing, and drinking an ice-cold glass of Coke. The purity of opposites!

How can I say it? It's looking and knowing that the stars are out there exploding immense fires and gasses thousands of light-years away--and thousands of years ago, their light just now making it to my eyes. And the crickets chirping in the grass. The immense and distant, and the tiny and near, in the same breath. Their reality.

The hotter the night, the faster the crickets chirp. As the weather cools, their chirping gets slower and slower. And finally, it stops, and they are gone. They say you can figure out the temperature by counting the number of a crickets chirps per minute. My brother, with his near-perfect pitch, can tell you, "That one is chirping in A-flat, and that one in C-sharp!"

The Madonnas of Leningrad

Last night in bed I noticed that I was reading about a woman who was noticing: "Finally, and not a moment too soon, a toilet.
It is delightful to make water after holding it for so long. She listens to the music of water on water and feels the wonderful release inside her. And to sit where it is warm and private, not squatting over a chamber pot in the bitter cold. One of the effects of this deterioration seems to be that as the scope of her attention narrows, it also focuses like a magnifying glass on smaller pleasures that have escaped her notice for years. She keeps these observations to herself. She tried once to point out to Dimitri the bottomless beauty in her glass of tea. It looked like amber with buried embers of light, and when held just so, there was a rainbow in the glass that took her breath away. He nodded sympathetically but mostly looked concerned. What would he say if she told him her pee sounded like a symphony?"

Debra Dean, "The Madonnas of Leningrad"

'Til the Sun Goes Down

Saturday, October 1, 2011
'Til the Sun Goes Down

Okay, I notice I feel unsure of myself, because I don't know what I am supposed to be doing here and I wonder if I am doing it right, putting it where it's supposed to be put, and all 'a that, and I know that this is exactly how I feel beginning anything new. Am I trying too hard, or not hard enough?

The air conditioner behind me is pushing out cold air, and I feel the back of my neck starting to ice up, even though it is 90-something degrees outside. I know this because I was just out there to check on my tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers...all those other things are weeds. I do not have a green thumb, I am not an attentive farmer. I suspect I am a really lazy mother for these fuzzy, tender little plants.

I don't know any of you people here. Is this all about Joy? Joy that comes in the morning? Hm. My fingers smell like the tomato vine I just lifted onto a stick. It was growing horizontally like a bullthorn weed. Poor thing, with it's soft, hairy stems and tiny green fruits. The smell is pleasant.

Okay. Now what? The old man next door is mowing his lawn in all this heat. The lawnmower sounds like model airplanes my brother used to fly across the desert. They had little gas engines and were hooked to a wire that kept them flying in wide circles. The airplanes were hand-made of balsa wood and silk. When I was little, our house always smelled of balsa wood and airplane glue.

My husband just brought me a tomato cage, and I'm going out now to prop up my plant. Well, maybe I'll wait 'til the sun goes down.

I Like Spiders

Good morning universe! Okay, I am up. Dreamed I was painting small, stamp-sized pictures with a PIN. I used to keep a dream journal just to see if I could make any sense of my dreams, most of them truly bizarre, in technicolor with a cast of thousands.... As far as I can tell, there are no great revelations here, no gold nuggets to be mined.

Let the dogs out. Someone peed on the just-cleaned carpet. Hm. Bet I know who it was! Ate a nourishing breakfast of Cheese Crackers with Peanut Butter, and warm Coke Zero left over from yesterday. No wonder I am fat. :(

Looking at the unused birdcage I have crawling with fake spiders of all sizes.... My grandkids ignore it now, but it still creeps out my daughters-in-law! LOL :D I like spiders.

Total silence (except for the ringing I hear in my ears--two layers of sound, one deeper, a hum, and another on a higher note, very high, oscillating, annoying). I don't hear well. Recently bought two hearing got sucked up in the vacuum cleaner (don't ask). The other still works. So it's only $2,000 down the tubes instead of $4,000.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Pepek the Assassin @

Joyce is a grandmother of eight. She is also a writer from Salt Lake City, Utah, where she resides with one husband, two dogs, and a lovebird. Her novel, Chrysalis, received a $5,000 publication grant and was nominated for the American Book Award. Her poetry book, In Willy’s House, won her a USPS Laureate Award. She co-authored a poetry textbook, On Extended Wings. Her blog, following the little god is a miscellany of opinions, pictures, and poems. The welcome mat is always out.

‘I would like to crawl inside Joyce Ellen Davis’ mind. In Willy’s House, she did exactly that with her great grandfather. With subtle energy and clean poetic choices she told a raw touching story which buried itself inside readers’ hearts. Now that highly creative, scientific mind gives us an “uncle,” Pepek the Assassin, whom the reader forgets is an invention: he and the other characters in his world are surprising, compelling, utterly real. And then Davis does it again, switching, in Telling Who Passed By, to an introspective examination of a woman’s life, every poem distinguished from the one before; each, startling; the whole, unburdened by naivete. I don’t think Pepek or these rare ruminations could have been born in anyone else’s mind.’ Marilyn Bushman-Carlton, author of keeping things small, Cheat Grass, Her Side of It

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Definite Plan

Okay. So, for a while now I have become bedazzled with, um, stuff, stuff like Fibonacci numbers, the Golden Mean, fractals, who is buried in Grant's tomb, information saved at the edges of the universe, and the Holographic Principle, and the Information Paradox. I'm doing my best to understand it all.

Bedazzled with The Fibonacci Sequence of Numbers, where the previous 2 numbers are added to get the next number in the sequence--and it's always the same series of numbers: 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55, etc. Like fractals, like Pi, it goes on forever. This arrangement is evident everywhere--in our DNA, in the shape of our ears, in the whorls of our fingertips and the proportions of our bodies, in the way smoke rises from a cigarette and oil flows through a pipeline, in the rise and fall of the stock market. It is evident in flowers, seashells, ocean waves, in planetary systems and in galaxies. It's applicable to the growth of every living thing, a single cell, a grain of wheat, a hive of bees.... Why? 'Tis a mystery!

I've been rereading "A Responsibility to Awe," by astronomer/poet Rebecca Elson, who envisions all of us, in a time before time, "drifting like a bright mist in a universe still young." The poem is called Antidotes to Fear of Death.

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
and all of us, and everything
Already there,
But unconstrained by form.

And sometimes it's enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.

I've also been reading Leonard Susskind's "The Black Hole War," in which he discusses Grant's Tomb, the Holographic Principle, amd the Information Paradox, where all information is never lost, but is stored on the boundary of space. (Wherever that is). INFORMATION that could conceivably, reconstitute itself -- information "precisely coded in Planckian bits far too small to see...think of everything within a million light-years of the sun...that contains interstellar galaxies, stars, planets, people, and all the rest," all coded by information, stored. What is the nature of reality? Everything you know and love is made of particles that contain information--you can scramble them, burn them, chop them up into infinitesimal pieces, but no matter what you do to them the information is not lost--and you could--if you knew how--retrieve the particles and reconstruct them.

Albert Einstein has written: "The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangements of the books--a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects."

While I remain much like the child in Einstein's library, I do like the idea that the unique information that is encoded in all those I love, is saved somewhere out there, just waiting to be collected and reconstituted. Sometime. Somehow.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pepek the Assassin

Available in June, 2011, from Pindrop Press.