While the remnants of cake
and half-empty champagne glasses
lay on the lawn like sunbathers lingering
in the slanting light, we left the houseguests
and drove to Antonelli's pond.
On a log by the bank I sat in my flowered dress and cried.
A lone fisherman drifted by, casting his ribbon of light.
"Do you feel like you've given her away?" you asked.
But no, it was that she made it
to here, that she didn't
drown in a well or die
of pneumonia or take the pills.
She wasn't crushed
under the mammoth wheels of a semi
on highway 17, wasn't found
lying in the alley
that night after rehearsal
when I got the time wrong.
It's animal. The egg
not eaten by a weasel. Turtles
crossing the beach, exposed
in the moonlight. And we
have so few to start with.
And that long gestation
like carrying your soul out in front of you.
All those years of feeding
and watching. The vulnerable hollow
at the back of the neck. Never knowing
what could pick them off—a seagull
swooping down for a clam.
Our most basic imperative:
for them to survive.
And there's never been a moment
we could count on it.
Mules of Love
BOA Editions, Ltd.
Copyright © 2002
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by mamazine.com with permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.
Ellen Bass's most recent book of poetry is Mules of Love (BOA Editions). In 1973, she co-edited the groundbreaking anthology of women's poetry No More Masks! and her non-fiction books include Free Your Mind and The Courage to Heal. She lives in Santa Cruz with her partner of 23 years, Janet Bryer, with whom she has raised two children. For more information about Ellen, go to www.ellenbass.com.