Hitching a ride, trusting a partner, marrying the same person three times
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Ellen Bass is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches in the MFA writing program at Pacific University. Her books of poetry include Like a Beggar and The Human Line. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.
When Lynne saw the lizard floating / in her mother-in-law’s swimming pool, / she jumped in.
I try to look at the big picture. / The sun, ardent tongue / licking us like a mother besotted /with her new cub, will wear itself out. / Everything is transitory.
Tonight, as you undress, I watch your wondrous / flesh that’s swelled again, the way a river swells / when the ice relents. Sweet relief / just to regard the sheaves of your hips, / your boundless breasts and marshy belly.
When I slip beneath the quilt and fold into / your warmth, I think we are like the pages / of a love letter
Tonight it seems a flowering branch of the tree / of pleasure to sit on my green couch with a tumbler / of scotch and a salted pretzel while people / pretending to be other people wheel / through the toothy gears of their lives.
Dew is already deep in the overgrown grass, / the air damp with a salty tang. / Zeke’s hips are too ground down / to lift a leg, so he just stands there.
— from “Ode To Invisibility” | O loveliness. O lucky beauty. / I wanted it and I couldn’t bear it.
Finally morning. This loneliness / feels more ordinary in the light, more like my face / in the mirror. My daughter in the ER again. / Something she ate?
It’s Saturday night, and all the heterosexuals / in smart little dresses and sport coats / are streaming into what we didn’t know / was the hoppingest spot between Las Vegas and LA.
I was nineteen and on LSD / the only time God spoke to me. / Or, if not God, a voice so clear / and clearly not my own
— from “Carpe Diem in the Backyard” | Here we are, I say to my dog, / who inclines his boxy head / then lowers himself to the unmown grass, / pointed tawny leaves scattered in heaps.