Poem of the Week, by Alison McGhee

Whether you’re a parent or not, everyone was once someone’s child. This one goes out to all of you. 



     – Alison McGhee

The newspaper reports that at twilight tonight
Venus and Jupiter will conjoin
in the southwestern sky,
a fist and a half above the horizon.
They won’t come together again for seventeen years.
What the article does not say is that Mercury, the
dark planet, will also be on hand.
He’ll hover low, nearly invisible in a darkened sky.
I stare out the kitchen window toward the sunset.

Seventeen years from now, where
will I be?
Mercury, Roman god of commerce and luck,
let me propose a trade:
Auburn hair, muscles that don’t ache, and a seven-minute mile.
Here’s what I’ll give you in return:
My recipe for Brazilian seafood stew, a talent for
French-braiding, an excellent sense of smell and
the memory of having once kissed Sam W.

Then I see my girl across the room.
She stands on a stool at the sink,
washing her toy dishes and
swaying to a whispered song,
her dark curls a nimbus in the lamplight.
The planets are coming together now.
Minute by minute the time draws nigh for me to watch.
Minute by minute my child wipes dry her red
plastic knife, her miniature blue bowls.

Mercury, here’s another offer, a real one this time:
Let her be.
You can have it all in return,
the salty stew, the braids, the excellent sense of smell
and the softness of Sam’s mouth on mine.
And my life. That too.
All of it I give for this child, that seventeen years hence
she will stand in a distant kitchen, washing dishes
I cannot see, humming a tune I cannot hear.


Poem of the Week, by Ellen Bass


  1. Son to his little sister, who was raging about a boy in her first-grade class: But maybe he acts like that because he’s sad. You never know what his home life is like.
  2. Older daughter, age six, to me during a discussion of what death was, after I had told her that if I died she would be very sad but she would still be okay: No I wouldn’t be sad. Me: . . . you wouldn’t? Her: Nope. If you die then I’ll die too. I can’t be alive without you.
  3. Younger daughter, the first day I ever met her in a far-off land, when they handed her away from everything and everyone she had ever known and into my arms and her face screwed up with terror and confusion: Shhh, don’t cry, little daughter, don’t cry. We’re going to have so much fun. I promise you. I promise you. I promise you.

For My Daughter on Her Twenty-First Birthday
     – Ellen Bass

When they laid you in the crook
of my arms like a bouquet and I looked
into your eyes, dark bits of evening sky,
I thought, of course this is you,
like a person who has never seen the sea
can recognize it instantly.
They pulled you from me like a cork
and all the love flowed out. I adored you
with the squandering passion of spring
that shoots green from every pore.
You dug me out like a well. You lit
the deadwood of my heart. You pinned me
to the earth with the points of stars.
I was sure that kind of love would be
enough. I thought I was your mother.
How could I have known that over and over
you would crack the sky like lightning,
illuminating all my fears, my weaknesses, my sins.
Massive the burden this flesh
must learn to bear, like mules of love.

For more information about Ellen Bass, please click here.

Poem of the Week, by Nathaniel Perry

In Bloom, Where the Meadow Rises
– Nathaniel Perry

Do you remember when the sky burned down
its wick of light as an April cold came on
the evening of your fifth day in the world?
Of course you don’t, you couldn’t even hold
your head up yet, much less begin to think
to hold one evening’s ash inside, like a drink
held up to the sun, trapping and clutching the light.
But I wonder sometimes if within the slighter
corners of your mind you’ve held a hint of it,
the light I saw beyond the trees which split
the view from our rented front porch, while you
slept, swaddled as if in song, through
the louder sleep of your mother beside you. Rache,
if you can find that evening, which is stationed
in my chest, inside you now, I swear it will
get you somewhere, across a field so filled
with snow the sky and ground are one, across
a field so bleached with drought the giant cross
of shadows from the pines is friction enough
to set the day on fire. You’ll come, rough
in your heart, to the edges of those fields and be lifted
just a fraction of an inch by the gift
of the sky’s old light in you. It will remind
you to invite yourself, the whole of your mind,
the whole history of your self along across
the grass. If you see yourself you can’t be lost;
though I may lose sight of you against the sky,
or in the vetch, in bloom, where the meadow rises.

For more information on Nathaniel Perry, please click here: http://www.kenyonreview.org/conversation/nathaniel-perry/

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