Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ellen Bass: "Gate C22"

At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she’d been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching—
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn’t look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after—if she beat you or left you or
you’re lonely now—you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.

Ellen Bass

The above poem is taken from _The Human Line_, forthcoming next month ( June 2007) from Copper
Canyon Press. Bass also has published several non-fiction books, including _The Courage to Heal_.
In 2001 she won the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I wake to his erection
like a gun in my back.

It forces me to lie still
breathe shallow.
His arm over my shoulder
pins me to the mattress.

He’s dead asleep.

Why don’t I lift myself
out of the bed, walk
out the door, out
of his life into my own?

Sun slants through venetians
turns the comforter
into bars of shadow.

He rolls over
away from me.

Still I lie.


The wife got the furniture
kids during the week
SUV and dog.

The husband got the house
kids every other weekend
car and timeshare.

Who were they thirty years ago?
She in lace and he in wool
repeating vows
snatched from movies.

Each 24 hours thereafter
they moved imperceptibly
until countless revolutions
eclipsed the girl in white
boy in blue

The Missing Persons Bureau
admits defeat in this case.
"No trace of them exists.
They vanished into air."

First published in _Leaf by Leaf_ (Spring 2007),
Evergreen Community College.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


me over your arm
my hair like Rapunzel's
swinging out the window
red clover lured bees
one flower to the next
you sucked juice from a mango
fleshy fruit dad called it
merchant marine who thought
life began in Mozambique or Malibu
anywhere but hovered over two kids
never still long enough to please
mom packing peanut butter sandwiches
dropping us at Evans Elementary
before she climbed
three floors to her classroom
hung with posters of Shakespeare & Petrarch
waiting for the first bell
kids in starched dresses & creased khakis
slid into desks older than mom
hearts with initials
RM & JC carved in wood
caked with grime
years of restless fingers
scratched letters over letters
palimpsest of love
inscribing what had been inscribed
glossing what could never be glossed
two people met at the turn
clasped & fell away

Published in _Leaf by Leaf_ (Spring 2007).
Evergreen Community College.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Miguel Gandert & "From Juarez"

One of my early poems, “From Juarez,” was based on a photograph by Miguel Gandert, a photographer who teaches at the University of New Mexico. Yesterday a dear friend who works there sent me Gandert’s University link that I include above.

(after a photograph by Miguel Gandert)

I'm Teresa Gutierrez. Look at me. Alive.
Not like my friend Cecilia Covarrubias. Shot
once in each breast and tossed in a field
where nothing grows.

The next day I ask my cousin to work
his magic. Tattoo the Blessed Mother.
Clothed with the stars and sun.
Spiked light down my back.

He lines and shades
week after week.
I flinch and turn away.
See our Lady of Guadalupe
rise out of my jeans.

Carry her with me.

To the maquiladora.
To dark streets after the second shift
crossroads where the bus stops.

Her mantle around me.

First Published in _Confluence_ (vol. 17, 2006), Ed. Wilma Acree

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Poetry Contest Winner: "Cant Quit"

Dear Poet Lovers & Contest Entrants,
I was quite pleased with the large number of good poems entered in this year’s “Gravity & Light” contest.
After several weeks of mulling over the poems, the judges are pleased to announce this year’s winning poem:
“Cant” by Allison Hummell. Congratulations, Allison, for a memorable and surprising poem!

"Cant Quit" 

Why do you think you’re allowed
To be so bad?
God knows you’re the worst thing
I ever had,
A good boy grown into a bastard of a man.
The kind you want to knock down like a strike or spare.
The kind you want to throw all of their
Cigarettes down the sink.
The kind you want to break their sunglasses
And puncture their tires.
(Just like you punctured my poor blue heart.)
The kind you want to take off their shirt
Like you'd take the shirt off the lord if you could.
The kind you want to light on fire with a waterproof match
because they make you cry mercy.
The kind you want to hold their hand tight as Lennie held that other
man's wife.
The kind you want to make fall to their knees and bleed.
The kind you want to curse and meet again in hell
so you can do it all again.
The kind you cant quit.