Poem of the Week, by Rebecca Elson

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

When I was pregnant I used to look at people passing by on the sidewalk, sitting in restaurants, laughing and talking and arguing, and think Every single one of them came out of a woman. This fact reassured me, because the thought of giving birth was terrifying. How could this giant thing in my belly possibly emerge without breaking me apart?

In the same way, it reassures me to look around at everyone –the old man walking his old pug, the child darting down the trail with her stuffed monkey, the woman smiling at me with her eyes above her Gromit mask early this morning–and think, it will happen to all of them, too. My faith is a searching one without definitive answers, but it comforts me to know others wonder the same big questions. Makes me feel like I’m part of a long line, something so much bigger than myself. I picture the poet-astronomer Rebecca Elson, who died young, lying under the stars and feeding herself with their light.

Antidotes to Fear of Death, by Rebecca Elson

Sometimes as an antidote
to fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
til they are all, all inside me,
pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
into a universe still young,
still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
the light of all the not yet stars
drifting like a bright mist,
and all of us, and everything
already there
but unconstrained by form.

And sometime it’s enough
to lie down here on earth
beside our long ancestral bones:

to walk across the cobble fields
of our discarded skulls,
each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
thinking: whatever left these husks
flew off on bright wings.

For more information on Rebecca Elson, please read her fascinating obituary.
Words by Winter: my new podcast

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