Monday May 27

BassEllencreidtIreneYoung Ellen Bass's poetry includes Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), and Mules of Love (BOA, 2002).  She co-edited (with Florence Howe) the groundbreaking No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (Doubleday, 1973). Her non-fiction books include The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (HarperCollins, 1988, 2008) and Free Your Mind: The Book for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth (HarperCollins, 1996). Her work has frequently been published in The New Yorker and The American Poetry Review, as well as in many other journals. Among her awards are a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Fellowship from the California Arts Council, two Pushcart Prizes, The Lambda Literary Award, Elliston Book Award, Pablo Neruda Prize from Nimrod/Hardman, Larry Levis Prize from Missouri Review, and the New Letters Prize. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA and teaches in the MFA writing program at Pacific

The Girl from Kunduz

From the not-yet woman, he can claw the light
as her muscles tear, she bites her wrist
the child disappears and his pleasure brightens
now that she is gutted, his eyelids flutter closed
to the thousand girls whose shit mingles
with their blood, perfuming villages in the sun

This never ends, the child’s blood drying
on her thighs, we could say her blood is like the crust
of salt left behind by the sea
or maps of countries she’ll never visit
but that would be more poetry
which hasn’t done anything to save her
nor have all the laws or any broken gods
or time dragging its glacial hours
or the family that would cover her with dust and earth
so it will never happen—to her—again

Ode to My Breasts

O breasts, you are loyal.
You are almost as bright as the night
Neal Rosen first beheld you—in the back seat of his father’s Chevy—
gift-wrapped in black lace. You are almost
as generous as when I nursed my baby, spraying delicate needles
of bluish milk into her fierce mouth. Of course
you’ve softened, you’ve sagged, but still
your nipples are doorbells waking the house.
They are wicks, eager to be lit. Breasts,
you buzz like hives. Insistent
as geese I can hardly keep cooped in my blouse.
You are pirate chests heavy with gold, sacks of sugar,
domes of cathedrals, cumulous clouds.
You are ballerinas pirouetting in pink tutus.
Pilgrims traveling to the holy land.
You are two rings of a three ring circus.
Vats full of grapes, artesian wells, swells in the sea.
Swirling through time, you are galaxies. You are love letters
sealed with red wax. Two white foxes playing in the snow.
You are arias thrilling the farthest rows of the crumbling
opera house. O my roman candles, fountains of fireworks,
you are flares set off from a raft lost at sea.


Bass photo credit: Irene Young