Kundalini Splendor

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Poem by Ellen Bass 

Below is "Bone of My Bone and Flesh of My Flesh," a poem by Ellen Bass from her book The Human Line. Ellen says of this poem, "I was working on a poem in which I needed a word for Janet, the woman with whom I have lived, loved, and raised children for twenty-five years. Searching through an old thesaurus--I still use the thesaurus my older brother handed down to me, published in 1962--I came across such a wonderful plethora of words that I thought they deserved a poem of their own."

This delightful poem is a good antidote for some of the rhetoric in the air these days.

I can't always refer to the woman I love,
my children’s other mother,
as my darling, my beloved,
sugar in my bowl. No.
I need a common, utilitarian word
that calls no more attention to itself
than nouns like grass, bread, house.
The terms husband and wife are perfect for that.
Hassling with PG&E
or dropping off dry cleaning,
you don't want to say,
The light of my life doesn't like starch.
Don't suggest spouse--a hideous word.
And partner is sterile as a boardroom.
Couldn't we afford a term
for the woman who carried that girl in her arms
when she was still all promise,
that boy curled inside her womb?
And today, when I go to kiss her
and she says, "Not now, I'm reading,"
still she deserves a syllable or two--
I can't express how furious
it makes me--
maybe it's better this way —
no puny pencil stub of a word.
Maybe these are exactly the times
to drag out the whole galaxy
of endearments: Buttercup,
I should say, lambkin, mon petit chou.
Set down War and Peace,
just for a moment, and lift
your ruby lips to mine.
And talking to the dishwasher repairman,
the vacuum cleaner salesclerk, the woman
in the Blue Cross billing department
I could explain that I'd already sent the co-pay
for my soulmate, my duckling,
my chocolate-covered cream puff.
Maybe it would brighten her day, too.
Hello, I might say, you precious,
you jewel, O queen among queens,
darling, honey pie, angel,
my sweet patootie.

Ellen Bass

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