poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 6, 2017.
About this Poem 

“Last spring, I had the privilege of being a writer-in-residence as part of the Long-Term Ecological Reflections Program of the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon. Time and space are overwhelming in this old-growth conifer forest where the trees are 300, 500 or even 700 years old, rising 250 feet into the sky, and where even the experiments are designed to take two hundred years. And then there are the almost infinite number of small life forms, living with, on, and inside these giants.”
—Ellen Bass

Fungus on Fallen Alder at Lookout Creek

Florid, fluted, flowery petal, flounce
of a girl’s dress, ruffled fan,
striped in what seems to my simple eye
an excess of extravagance,
intricately ribboned like a secret
code, a colorist’s vision of DNA.
At the outermost edge a scallop
of ivory, then a tweedy russet,
then mouse gray, a crescent
of celadon velvet, a streak of sleek seal brown,
a dark arc of copper, then butter,
then celadon again, again butter, again
copper and on into the center, striped thinner
and thinner to the green, green moss-furry heart.
How can this be necessary?
Yet it grows and is making more
of itself, dozens and dozens of tiny starts, stars
no bigger than a baby’s thumbnail,
all of them sucking one young dead tree
on a gravel bank that will be washed away
in the next flooding winter. But isn’t the air here
cool and wet and almost unbearably sweet?

Copyright © 2017 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ellen Bass

Ellen Bass

Ellen Bass is the author of Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). She currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

Finally, morning. This loneliness
feels more ordinary in the light, more like my face
in the mirror. My daughter in the ER again.
Something she ate? Some freshener

someone spritzed in the air?
They’re trying to kill me, she says,
as though it’s a joke. Lucretius
got

poem

What if you knew you'd be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line's crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled

poem


Enough seen….Enough had....Enough…
                           —Arthur Rimbaud

No. It will never be enough. Never
enough wind clamoring in the trees,
sun and shadow handling each leaf, never enough clang
of my neighbor hammering,
the iron nails, relenting wood,