Ellen Bass, Faculty Reading, Emerging Writers' Retreat

Ellen Bass, Faculty Reading, Emerging Writers' Retreat



understand is that okay yeah of course can you hear me okay no first I'm just twice a happy I am to be here and this first one that I'm going to read it is about poetry there are many reasons why I love poetry but I think the one the one that's the most important to me the one that is most essential is that it tells me to do something that's very hard for me to do in my life but when I'm in a poem when I'm writing a poem or sometimes reading the poem I'm able to which is to accept what's happening in in poetry we don't one only good things and in in life I mean most of us want what we want and we don't want what we don't want and it's very hard to what we don't want but in in poetry I mean like you know like we don't want only Shakespearean comedies we want the tragedy we want everything and so I was thinking about that and that's where this form arose from and it's called everything in a poem it doesn't matter if the house history dust that claims the photographs like a smothering love sand spilled from a boys sneaker the faceted graves scattered when the emerald rug like the stars and planets of a tiny solar system monopoly butted up against dust I have ski el techo my shiny sticker labeling the ceiling from the summer and nephew who studied Spanish mold one bread and the refrigerator is as interesting as like in one an oak its miniscule hairs like the fuzz on an infant's head it's delicate blues and two spring greens its plethora of spores whole continents of creatures dazzling our homes in a poem life and death are equal we receive the child crushed like gravel under the and the grandfather and the open grave holding her small blue sweatshirt to his face and we welcome the baby born at daybreak the mother naked squatting and pushing in front of the picture window just as the garbage truck wars up and then jump out clanking metal pans into Islam in a poem we don't care if you got hired or fired lost or found love recovery or kept drinking you don't have to exercise or for kids we're hungry we'll take everything on the menu in poems joy and sorrow our minutes they lie down together their hands all over each other fingers swollen Malik's nipples changed to fling their sexes that is seamlessly as day and night they aren't over us listening I am this I wrote this poem some years back before the possibility of gay marriage was rolling in the way it is I went to read it as a kind of hope hopeful hopefulness but I was working on a poem and you really see how terrible it is that we don't have getting married when you're trying to write a poem because it's just impossible to have a good language for what you want and I had this poem and I was I just was struggling with a word and I couldn't find anything and I was getting really frustrated and I opened up my thesaurus which is is from the 1950s I have an older brother and as his thesaurus that I've been using all these years and I just started reading these words for the person that you love and they were so wonderful so this is both bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh I can't always refer to the woman I love my children's other mother as My Darling my beloved sugar in my goal no I need a common utilitarian word that calls no more attention to itself than nouns like grass bread house the trans husband and wife are perfect for that past length with PG&E were dropping off dry clean you don't want to say the light of my life don't be Jessie spells in Hattiesburg and partner is still a support room couldn't we afford the term for the woman who carried that girl in her arms when she was still all promise that boy curled inside her room and today when I go to kiss her and she says not now I'm reading still she deserves a syllable or two if only so I can express how furious she makes me but maybe it's better this way no puny pencil stub of a word maybe these are exactly the times to drag out the whole galaxy of endearments buttercup I should say lamken called the tea to set down worn these just for a moment and lived your ruby lips to mine and talking to the dishwasher repairman the vacuum cleaner sails third the woman in the Blue Cross billing department I could explain that I'd already sent the copay for my soul mate my duckling my chocolate-covered green thumb maybe would brighten her day – hello I might say you precious you jewel queen among queens darling honey pie angel my sweet patootie [Applause] one of the things that is a lot of fun in poetry and and challenging sometimes is yeah and we've talked about this a little bit in class we'll talk about it more is yoking things together that we don't normally think of as going together and sometimes for me the way of home gets started it is it seems like there's some connection between disparate thing course that's what metaphor is right you know connection between things that we don't usually think of as being connected and I got this idea in my mind that there was something about how we think about God and how we think about the g-spot that had so this it took me actually a long time to figure this out you know it might not sound like it but I was working it in my mind and it's called God and the g-spot then it starts with a epigraph line from and druyan Carl Sagan's wife on why Carl didn't believe in God and she said he didn't want to believe he wanted to know I want to know to belief and disbelief are a pair of tourists standing on swollen feet in the Prado I like it I don't before the because or the tattoo artist with a silver stud in her full red executive lips as she ain't did the indigo group said I think that she spots one of those myths men used to make us feel in Syria God the g-spot falling in love the earth round and spinning the galaxies speeding in the good flow of the Hubble expansion I'm an East Coast – we all have our opinions but it was in the cabin at LaSalle the beach where I gave her the 30 tiny ring glass hearts I'd taken back from my husband when I left I've never believed in them she though scooped them up like water let them droop through her fingers like someone who has so much she can afford to waste that's the day she reached inside me for something I didn't think I had and by pulling a fat shining child from the river she pulled the river out of me that's the way I want to know [Applause] [Applause] more serious but a different kind of serious I have the good fortune to get to teach at Esalen in Big Sur frequently and for those of you who haven't been there drank of some time to think sir native life it's so beautiful and as I was leaving one time I was standing there looking down over the cliffs and I had this won't go through my head I'm weather don't believe in God I couldn't stand it what the thought behind that was that if you believed in a personified God and if you believe that that God could see what was going on we were doing to the earth and then you'd have to believe that that would hurt that that God that God would suffer from that and then that if you loved that guy you wouldn't have to have empathy and sympathy for what that God was going through and that you just couldn't stand thinking about that and it was a line that we talked about this the Bailey in the poem it was the the line that was in there for a really long time this employment the most to me but it had to come out of the poem because it had already done its work so you're not going to hear that line in the poem but that's that's where it came from for me it's called God's great great parent who must have started out with such high hopes what magnitude of suffering the immensity of guilt the staggering despair a mind the size of the Sun burning with longing a heart huge as a gray whale breaching streaming seawater against the pale sky men God or beasts God God that breeds in every pleated leaf throat sack a frog in feather and shaft god of plutonium and penicillin drunk sleeping on the subway Great God of Joan of Arc got a Crazy Horse lady day bringing us to our knees God if Houdini hands like a river of Einstein regret running thick in his veins got a Stalin got a samosa got of the long march the Trail of Tears the trains gotta buy ending and god of cookie the strawberry thicker fire in his back god of midnight god of winter god of rouge two children sold to the week's lodging and airfare to thailand got in trouble got at the end of his rope sleepless helpless desperate god frantic God will heart lost in the shallows beached on the sand parched blistered crushed by gravity's massive weight [Applause] now we but with one word from from this book and that a couple of new ones this is called if you knew what if you knew would be the last to touch someone if you were taking tickets for example and the theater tearing them giving back the ragged stunts you might take care to touch that Paul brush your fingertips along the lifelines grease Wenham animals is build suitcase to slowly through the airport when the car in front of me doesn't signal when the clerk at the pharmacy won't say thank you I don't remember they're going to die a friend told me she'd been with her aunt they just had lunch and the waiter a young gay man with plum black eyes Joe as he served the coffee kissed her aunts powdered cheek when they left then they walked have a block and her aunt dropped in on the sidewalk how close just the dragon's spoon and have to come how would just in heaven after sleep what would people look like if we could see them as they are soaked in honey stomach and swollen breakfast in against time [Applause]

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