Ellen Bass

Sometimes, When She Is Buried Deep

between my thighs, rooted there
like a tree is rooted, digging into
my earth-heart, dirt-heart, heart riddled
with need and decay, breaking
down, breaking the world so
it can bud again, I become
the girl I was long ago, just out
of the gate, new to the track,
but with a will to run, my muscles
rippling like banners, my rump a blessing,
my scapulae wings. I’m so young
I smell like amniotic waters.
I squander my hot breath, careless
as wind whipping litter and fallen
leaves, rumbling empty cans, disturbing
any rest. How surprised I am to find myself
here again, at this cusp of crumbling,
this last dissolve, surrounded
by such succulent skin, and oh,
how she opens me, how she lifts me still.

Ellen Bass’s poetry includes Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, forthcoming 2020) Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), and Mules of Love (BOA, 2002). She co-edited, with Florence Howe, the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (Doubleday, 1973). Her poetry has appeared frequently in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, and many other journals. Among her awards are Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and The California Arts Council, three Pushcart Prizes, The Lambda Literary Award, The Pablo Neruda Prize, The Larry Levis Prize and the New Letters Prize. Her nonfiction books include Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies, I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, and The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches in the MFA writing program at Pacific University.