Raleigh Review vol. 5, no. 1 (Spring 2015), pp. 65-67.
by Ellen Bass
taking shape against my window,
night’s dark gauze falling from your limbs.
Hello bird whose name I don’t know.
Wing feathers louvering open, first light
shining through as they lift.
And curled tea leaves
sleeping in your tin.
There you are, my dead mother
in your red lacquer frame.
You once carried the sea home in a jar
and held out a spoonful to me each day.
And you baby chicks, peeping
when I pull back the towel from your cage,
pecking corn mash, sipping water,
raising your beaks
so the water slides down your throats.
The Times folded in the driveway,
The Dow breaking 16,000.
Minimum wage at $7.25.
In China, minks and foxes are skinned alive.
An artist has sculpted them in clay—
sticking in a needle for each hair.
In Toronto, an anesthesiologist is found guilty
of putting his penis in the mouths of twenty-one women
behind the blue drape of the operating table.
There are the ten thousand beautiful things
and the ten thousand terrible things
the Buddha said we must open our hearts to.
Dear breasts. Half a century ago
I wrapped you in black lace and a boy laughed,
astonished this was all for him.
Welcome cracked spines of paperbacks,
pearls with a broken clasp.
My neighbor is down on his knees,
scissoring the grass around the daffodils.
Hushed children of the world, your green bones
broken, yellow bruises blooming.
Hello to the shovel leaning on the fence
and to the excellent grave
my son dug for the dog—so deep
I had to stretch flat, to lower her body.
I’m listening, Mozart. You make a world
in which loss is bearable.
Good morning, my mother-in-law.
You still know my voice.
I love you forever, we say, over and over.
Speech burned down to these embers.
My daughter is just now
boarding a plane for an ice-slicked coast,
looking for a doctor to save her.
Rose petals have fallen into the grooves
of our beat-up truck bed, verses
of pink blossoms against the rusted paint.
There are only a hundred elements.
The same chord shivering
I should have been kinder
to the man who sat beside me
at the D league basketball game.
He was so lonely he wouldn’t stop talking.
I never even took a good look at him.
Only the cat hair silvering his dark pants.
Hello my jacket. Maybe happiness
is nothing more than how much pleasure
I can take from the act
of zipping your little metal teeth together.