Poem of the Week, by Ellen Bass

I’d love to see you in my January “Write Together” session or one of my half-day workshops next month. Find all the details here.

When I was young I felt desperate sometimes, desperate to escape my own grief, spiraling thoughts, panic, pain. Drugs aren’t something I’ve ever done but I understand the wild impulse to get out of my own head. I used to tromp for miles and miles until I’d temporarily walked myself out of the internal chaos. In really bad spells I narrowed time down to half-hour segments, sometimes fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes, Allie, was my silent mantra. Can you get through fifteen minutes? That’s all there is, is fifteen minutes.

Getting through the next fifteen minutes is a form of waiting. The act of waiting is a kind of living mantra, a belief that everything changes, everything passes. Waiting is a form of matching your breath to the breath of the wider, wiser world.

Phone Therapy, by Ellen Bass

I was relief, once, for a doctor on vacation
and got a call from a man on a window sill.
This was New York, a dozen stories up.
He was going to kill himself, he said.
I said everything I could think of.
And when nothing worked, when the guy
was still determined to slide out that window
and smash his delicate skull
on the indifferent sidewalk, “Do you think,”
I asked, “you could just postpone it
until Monday, when Dr. Lewis gets back?”

The cord that connected us—strung
under the dirty streets, the pizza parlors, taxis,
women in sneakers carrying their high heels,
drunks lying in piss—that thick coiled wire
waited for the waves of sound.

In the silence I could feel the air slip
in and out of his lungs and the moment
when the motion reversed, like a goldfish
making the turn at the glass end of its tank.
I matched my breath to his, slid
into the water and swam with him.
“Okay,” he agreed.


Words by Winter: my podcast


  1. Lady Shamla Rose · October 22

    Beloved Alison McGhee

    *It is the 22nd October 2022, and I magnetized the most beautiful essay
    on today. I am sharing that with you.

    I do hope that you love it as much I do.*

    *In love, with love, for love
    Shamla of Shamballa


  2. Larry Nalls · October 22

    I love this Allie.


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