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Category archive for: Ellen Bass

Worry

“You always think the worst

is going to happen,” Janet says

as we walk with our son along the Amsterdam canals.

“What do you think—he’s going to fall in and drown?”

I have worried

all over the world. It comes to me easily.

Formed slowly through childhood

like stalactites in a cave.

My mother worried to keep going—

a sick husband, the store, children

she wanted everything for. I call her

distraught. Janet’s been dizzy for days.

In the E.R. they inked small x’s

on the parchment map of her skin.

Her doctor’s at a conference in Paris,

and I’m afraid there’s a blood clot near her brain.

“Go buy a plant,” she says. “I’m not going to die.”

My mother tells me I learned it from her—

how to panic. She was thirteen,

oldest of five, when her father left.

My grandmother worried to keep food

on the table. Every week

she’d board the bus to buy

dry goods, children’s clothes, socks

to sell in her corner store.

When she didn’t climb down

from the six o’clock—winter,

it was already dark—my mother sat

in the window, tears rumpling her face,

praying, Let her come home.

And in Russia—my father was a baby

when his mother carried him and two brothers

to the border. Hiding

in the forest undergrowth, my father

crying, she heard boots

bite through the crusted snow. Some women

smothered infants. What must have gone

through her mind when the steps hesitated,

before turning away?

Janet doesn’t think about what

might happen. She thinks about what is.

But I carry dread on my shoulders

like a knapsack, like the extra pounds

my grandmother wanted me to gain.

She’d read about a girl in a plane crash.

All she had to eat was snow.

from Mules of LoveFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2002
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

God and the G-Spot

     He didn’t want to believe. He wanted to know.

         -Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan’s wife,

         on why he didn’t believe in God

I want to know too. Belief and disbelief

are a pair of tourists standing on swollen feet

in the Prado—I don’t like it.

I do. —before the Picasso.

Or the tattoo artist with a silver stud

in her full red executive lips,

who, as she inked in the indigo blue, said,

I think the G-spot’s one of those myths

men use to make us feel inferior.

God, the G-spot, falling in love. The earth round

and spinning, the galaxies speeding

in the glib flow of the Hubble expansion.

I’m an East Coast Jew. We all have our opinions.

But it was in the cabin at La Selva Beach

where I gave her the thirty tiny red glass hearts

I’d taken back from my husband when I left.

He’d never believed in them. She, though, scooped

them up like water, let them drip through her fingers

like someone who has so much she can afford to waste.

That’s the day she reached inside me

for something I didn’t think I had.

And like pulling a fat shining trout from the river

she pulled the river out of me. That’s

the way I want to know God.

from Mules of LoveFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2002
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

For My Daughter on her Twenty-First Birthday

When they laid you in the crook

of my arms like a bouquet and I looked

into your eyes, dark bits of evening sky,

I thought, of course this is you,

like a person who has never seen the sea

can recognize it instantly.

They pulled you from me like a cork

and all the love flowed out. I adored you

with the squandering passion of spring

that shoots green from every pore.

You dug me out like a well. You lit

the deadwood of my heart. You pinned me

to the earth with the points of stars.

I was sure that kind of love would be

enough. I thought I was your mother.

How could I have known that over and over

you would crack the sky like lightning,

illuminating all my fears, my weaknesses, my sins.

Massive the burden this flesh

must learn to bear, like mules of love.

from Mules of LoveFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2002
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

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