Ellen Bass lives in Santa Cruz, California, and is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Her most recent book of poetry is titled Indigo. The boy in her poem in this issue is now a father, so she has another precious creature to worry about in this endangered world.— From February 2023
As part of our ongoing celebration of the magazine’s fiftieth year in print, we asked Ellen Bass and Danusha Laméris to choose a poem by the other for this month’s Dog-Eared Page. We start with a conversation in which they discuss their shared history and why they selected the poems that follow.
The Big Picture
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.
After my brother died, his wife was sure he was living / inside their cat, Rocky. He’s in there, she’d say, staring into / those blank, yellow eyes. Isma’il? Isma’il? Can you hear me?
When Lynne saw the lizard floating / in her mother-in-law’s swimming pool, / she jumped in.June 2019
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.April 2018
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.January 2018
When I slip beneath the quilt and fold into / your warmth, I think we are like the pages / of a love letterFebruary 2017
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.January 2016
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.December 2015
— from “Ode To Invisibility” | O loveliness. O lucky beauty. / I wanted it and I couldn’t bear it.January 2015
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?February 2014
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.February 2013
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 ownNovember 2011
— 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.October 2010
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