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

The pads of your paws scrabble
as I drag you from the tunnel
clamped to the shiny green trap,
a baby, hell-bent on saving
your twist of life, spun
from the same cells as I am, the common
intelligence of fins, wings, limbs.
The first time you see the sun
you’re splayed on your

poem

It’s Saturday night and all the heterosexuals
in smart little dresses and sport coats
are streaming into what we didn’t know
was the hottest spot between Las Vegas and L.A.
Janet and I are in jeans and fleece—not a tube of lipstick
or mascara wand between us. Grayheads:
a species easy

poem

You stand at the counter, pouring boiling water
over the French roast, oily perfume rising in smoke.
And when I enter, you don’t look up.
You’re hurrying to pack your lunch, snapping
the lids on little plastic boxes while you call your mother
to tell her you’ll take her to the doctor.