Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Apr 27th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

The Poems of Ellen Bass

ae EllenBass(Irene Young)Editor’s note:  Ellen Bass was recently named the new Santa Cruz County Poet Laureate. Her poetry includes “Like a Beggar” (Copper Canyon, 2014), “The Human Line” (Copper Canyon, 2007), and “Mules of Love” (BOA, 2002), and she coedited “No More Masks!” (Doubleday, 1973), the first major anthology of poetry by women. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, Ploughshares, and The Kenyon Review. She teaches in the MFA program at Pacific University. Visit ellenbass.com.




Ode to Repetition

I like to take the same walk

down the wide expanse of Woodrow to the ocean,

and most days I turn left toward the lighthouse.

The sea is always different. Some days dreamy,

waves hardly waves, just a broad undulation

in no hurry to arrive. Other days the surf’s drunk,

crashing into the cliffs like a car wreck.

And when I get home I like

the same dishes stacked in the same cupboards

and then unstacked and then stacked again.

And the rhododendron, spring after spring,

blossoming its pink ceremony.

I could dwell in the kingdom of Coltrane,

those rivers of breath through his horn,

as he forms each phrase of “Lush Life”

over and over until I die. Once I was afraid

of this, opening the curtains every morning,

only to close them again each night.

You could despair in the fixed town of your own life.

But when I wake up to pee, I’m grateful

the toilet’s in its usual place, the sink with its

gift of water.

I look out at the street, the halos of lampposts

in the fog or the moon rinsing the parked cars.

When I get back in bed I find

the woman who’s been sleeping there

each night for thirty years. Only she’s not

the same, her body more naked

in its aging, its disorder. Though I still

come to her like a beggar. One morning

one of us will rise bewildered

without the other and open the curtains.

There will be the same shaggy redwood

in the neighbor’s yard and the faultless stars

going out one by one into the day.

 

Cheetah

Even with my good binoculars

it’s a buff-colored smudge in the distance.

A smudge that pivots

so the outline of an ear

becomes visible, briefly,

before it’s consumed into the whole again.

That’s it. And yet

it’s as if the world unbuttoned her dress

and we can’t get enough

of looking. This is happiness—

without the freight of happiness. Only

the machinery of our eyes

working so hard to speed through

the air thick with dust and sun,

through the tall, tangled grasses.

We’re looking through a pinprick

in the universe, bound

to any aperture, no matter how small,

glad to be swallowed completely. Hunger,

thirst, the need to pee

all disappear. We’re focusing

in now, our pupils opening. We’re way past

past regrets, failures, promises,

sunk deep

into that bit of tawny fur.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Congratulations, Ellen!
written by nick herbert, March 26, 2014
Congratulations, Ellen, on your elevation to poet laureate of Santa Cruz. In my mind's eye you always wore a laurel. Now your poet's wreath is visible to all.

much love
Nick

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Dark Magic

40 years on the movie beat in Santa Cruz
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

If you could live in Santa Cruz in any era besides now, which would you choose?

Probably the ’70s, because Santa Cruz is such a fly-your-freak-flag place. That was when free love and hippiness was in vogue. Shane Reber, Santa Cruz, Caretaker

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise