This weeks Saturday Poetry, matched with mobile photography/art is entitled ‘Roses’ by Ellen Bass. Ellen Bass was born in Philadelphia in 1947 and grew up in New Jersey. She received a BA from Goucher College and an MA in creative writing from Boston University, where she studied with Anne Sexton. She later said that Anne Sexton “encouraged me to write more, to expand, to go deeper and wider. She breathed life back into the process. Without her, I might have given up.”
She is the author of nine poetry collections, the most recent of which is Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). Her other books include Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), which The New York Times notes “pulses with sex, humor and compassion,” The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), Mules of Love (BOA Editions, 2002), and I’m Not Your Laughing Daughter (University of Massachusetts Press, 1973). She also worked with Florence Howe to edit the feminist poetry anthology No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (Doubleday, 1973).
In addition to her poetry, Ellen Bass has written several works of nonfiction, including Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth—and Their Allies (Harper Perennial, 1996), which she cowrote with Kate Kaufman, and The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (Perennial Library, 1988), which she cowrote with Laura Davis and which has been translated into ten languages.
I have matched @dreamsandfields – Christa’s image with this poem. You can follow her work on Instagram here.
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‘Roses’ ©Ellen Bass
Four roses drinking from a blue vase.
The first one I name Moment of Gladness,
the second, Wresting Beauty from Fear.
All year I watched her disappearing, the sweet fat
of her hips, her laughter, her will,
as though a whelk had drilled through her shell,
sucked out the flesh. Death woke me each morning
with its bird impersonation. But now she has cut
these Clouds of Glory and a honeyed musk sublimes
from their petals, veined fine as an infant’s eyelids,
and spiralling like any embryo—fish, snake, or human.
And she has carried them to me, saturated
in the colors they have not swallowed,
the blush and gold, the razzle-dazzle red. Riven
from the dirt to cling here briefly.
And now, as though to signify our fortune,
a tiny insect journeys across the kingdom
of one ivory petal and into the heart
of the blossom. O, Small Mercies sliced
from the root. I listen
as they sip the blue water.
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