When jasmine sprawls over the fence, seductive
as a languid woman, I am pleased.
And when narcissi send up slender stalks,
but no luscious flowers, I'm disappointed.
But if one fails, the other thrives. Nature
is like that. It doesn't care. This seed
lands in fertile soil, the sun, the rain is right.
It grows to a sapling, then madrone,
limbs bronzed as children by the sea all summer.
That another lands on rock or is washed away
or sprouts and is trampled, doesn't matter.
Nature wants life, but any life will do.
I stay outside till dark, hashing up the ground.
Inside is my daughter. She has split
the hard shell of her seed
and a lone naked root is searching the soil.
I don't even know what she needs.
Anything I offer—or withhold—
may be wrong. And she can't tell me.
She is mute as a plant. And so individual,
like the bean I grew in a jar in third grade,
my own bean, the tiny white hairs of its root
delicate as the fuzz on a newborn's crown.
Just a singular seed and the treacherous odds.
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.