Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mules of Love - Poems by Ellen Bass

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The Thing Is
By Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.

When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?

Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.


from "Mules of Love"

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And What if I Spoke of Despair
By Ellen Bass
 
And what if I spoke of despair—who doesn’t
feel it? Who doesn’t know the way it seizes,
leaving us limp, deafened by the slosh
of our own blood, rushing
through the narrow, personal
channels of grief. It’s beauty
that brings it on, calls it out from the wings
for one more song. Rain
pooled on a fallen oak leaf, reflecting
the pale cloudy sky, dark canopy
of foliage not yet fallen. Or the red moon
in September, so large you have to pull over
at the top of Bayona and stare, like a photo
of a lover in his uniform, not yet gone;
or your own self, as a child,
on that day your family stayed
at the sea, watching the sun drift down,
lazy as a beach ball, and you fell asleep with sand
in the crack of your smooth behind.
That’s when you can’t deny it. Water. Air.
They’re still here, like a mother’s palms,
sweeping hair off our brow, her scent
swirling around us. But now your own
car is pumping poison, delivering its fair
share of destruction. We’ve created a salmon
with the red, white, and blue shining on one side.
Frog genes spliced into tomatoes—as if
the tomato hasn’t been humiliated enough.
I heard a man argue that genetic
engineering was more dangerous
than a nuclear bomb. Should I be thankful
he was alarmed by one threat, or worried
he’d gotten used to the other? Maybe I can’t
offer you any more than you can offer me—
but what if I stopped on the trail, with shreds
of manzanita bark lying in russet scrolls
and yellow bay leaves, little lanterns
in the dim afternoon, and cradled despair
in my arms, the way I held my own babies
after they’d fallen asleep, when there was no
reason to hold them, only
I didn’t want to put them down.

From:  "Mules of Love"

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See that large green plant to the left?  It's a tomato plant that's well over ten feet long.  It's also in the pink bowl, climbing the purple Wandering Jew, still blooming it's yellow blooms and making tiny tomatoes.  Yes, it's almost November and I have a monster Tomato plant that greets me with it's unique perfume every morning as I walk out my door.  It's in the same quart-sized plastic pot I bought it in.  Why is is still alive and climbing toward the sun? 
Why does it give me such joy?

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Everything on the Menu
By Ellen Bass

In a poem it doesn't matter
if the house is dirty.  Dust
that claims the photographs like a smothering
love.  Sand spilled from a boy's sneaker,
the faceted grains scattered on the emerald rug
like the stars and planets of a tiny
solar system.  Monopoly
butted up against Dostoyevsky.
El techo, a shiny sticker, labeling the ceiling
from the summer a nephew studied Spanish.

Mold on bread in the refrigerator
is as interesting as lichen on an Oak---
its miniscule hairs like the fuzz
on an infant's head, its delicate
blues and spring greens, its plethora of spores,
whole continents of creatures, dazzling our palms.

In a poem, life and death are equals.
We receive the child, crushed
like gravel under a tire.
And the grandfather at the open grave
holding her small blue sweatshirt to his face.
And we welcome the baby born
at daybreak, the mother naked, squatting
and pushing in front of the picture window
just as the garbage truck roars up
and men jump out, clanking
metal cans into its maw.

In a poem, we don't care if you got hired
or fired, lost or found love,
recovered or kept drinking.
You don't have to exercise
or forgive.  We're hungry.
We'll take everything on the menu.

In a poem, joy and sorrow are mates.
They lie down together, their hands
all over each other, fingers
swollen in mouths,
nipples chafed to flame, their sexes
fitting seamlessly as day and night.
They arch over us, glistening and bucking,
the portals through which we enter our lives.

From:  "Mules of Love"

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11 comments:

Eric Alder said...

Hell, I'll take TWO of everything!

Great stuff, Marion! You always have such wonderful things to share.

Wine and Words said...

Marion, I have had THE THING IS posted on my bulletin board at work since you first gave it to me months and months ago. I have typed it out for others and read it frequently. It was a lovely gift then as now.

((Hug))
Annie

Jaliya said...

WOW. I need this book!

Thank you, Marion

:-)

Kelly said...

All wonderful poems, but oh how that first one grabs me!!!! I love it!!!

I'm also quite impressed with your tomato plant!

Woman in a Window said...

Another poet I can understand. Understand - with my eyes closed and my brain doing bills and my finger scolding and my soul laying down with the moon. Gorgeous writing.

I have a hard time geting my brain around you walking out your door, maybe barefoot, and smeling fresh tomato leaves. It is hard for me to understand.

xo
erin

Terresa said...

Bass is brilliant, there is just no other way around it. She, herself, is a portal to another world.

PS: Love those tomato plants! Prolific!!

Rick said...

Marion, I really liked "everything on the menu" Hey! i heard you think that just now!
Yeah of course.
Tomatoes again?
love~rick

Marion said...

Love the poetry, Marion. I'm beginning to see...I think. heh

Even with the temperature going down to -15C overnight, I still have flowers blooming and, yes, a tomato plant which is still producing little green tomatoes. It's very odd...almost as if the plants defy the cold!

Love the music on your blog this morning!

Have a very happy weekend! And thanks for posting these poems...both of them help me traverse the strange world of poetry! xoxo

quid said...

I really love "The Thing Is"... I do find much of what she writes talks about despair, but that poem is a little different.

What a monster tomato! Love it. You truly have a green thumb.

quid

Jos said...

I could sit and read this writing again and again. Sumptuous and so satisfying. And real.

Marion, thanks so much for the supportive comments. I think I am getting back on track now. Thankfully.

Big huge hug to you. xx Jos

Lovely Bushra said...

i am lovin it….!!!
its is so nice sharing……
gr8 wrk !!!!

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