From Ellen Bass's Collection, Indigo

April 17, 2020  By Ellen Bass

She grazes in a meadow, sulfur blossoms spilling
from her jaw.

At this moment she seems so calm, she could be holy,
if what that means is something like being

wholly unaware of the good she gives,
how even her rooting tills the soil

and even her shitting ferries the seeds
and even her bathing is a joy to behold

as I am beholding her this morning
as she leans over a water hole, her shadow first

and then her reflection on the skin of the water,
then the splash as she enters, the pond opening,

rippling, and the scritch as she scrubs
her head with her paw, the great planet

of her head that she dunks and raises, shaking
the water in wide arcs, spraying

the lens of the hidden camera. And now
she climbs out, water rivering off her fur.

She is drying that huge head
in the long grasses.

And here she hunkers
over a bison carcass, slowly ripping free

the shoulder. Those precision instruments
that work with an ease that seems—yes—delicate.

Blood stains the river and stains
the snowbank and stains the rock.

Vessel carrying the chemicals of life—
hair and bone, flagella and bloom.

She carries them, lumbering forward
as she sinks her teeth and feeds.


Indigo__Bass cover

From Indigo by Ellen Bass. Published with permission of Copper Canyon Press. 2020.

Ellen Bass
Ellen Bass
Ellen Bass’s newest book, Indigo, is forthcoming in early 2020. Among her previous books are Like a Beggar (2014) which was a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Publishing Triangle Award, the Milt Kessler Poetry Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Northern California Book Award, The Human Line (2007), and Mules of Love (2002), which won the Lambda Literary Award. She co-edited the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks! (1973). Among her other honors are three Pushcart Prizes, the Pablo Neruda Prize, Larry Levis Prize, New Letters Prize, and Fellowships from the NEA and the California Arts Council. Her poetry appears frequently in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, and many other journals. Bass is also co-author of the groundbreaking The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (1988, 2008), and Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies (1996). A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Bass founded poetry workshops at Salinas Valley State Prison and at the Santa Cruz County jails, and she teaches in the low-residency MFA program in writing at Pacific University.

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