Some poets are so precious to me that sometimes, late at night usually, I start googling their names. Maybe they’ve got a new poem out there, one I haven’t yet seen, one that will instantly burn itself into my heart the way this one below did. It came to me by random chance –the Sun Magazine, probably– and I finished reading it and went on an immediate Ellen Bass hunt. The first question in this one is one I’ve asked myself at least once a day ever since I read it.
– Ellen Bass
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 suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.
A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked a half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.
How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?