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Poem of the Week: The Nutritionist by Andrea Gibson via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

The Nutritionist, by Andrea Gibson

The nutritionist said I should eat root vegetables,
said if I could get down thirteen turnips each day
I would be grounded, rooted.
Said my head would not keep flying away to where the darkness lives.

The psychic told me my heart carries too much weight,
said for twenty dollars she’d tell me what to do.
I handed her the twenty and she said, “Stop worrying, darling,
you will find a good man soon.”

The first psycho-therapist said I should spend three hours a day
sitting in a dark closet with my eyes closed and my ears plugged.
I tried it once but couldn’t stop thinking
about how gay it was to be sitting in the closet.

The yogi told me to stretch everything but the truth,
said focus on the out breath,
said everyone finds happiness
if they can care more about what they can give
than what they get.

The pharmacist said Klonopin, Lamictal, Lithium, Xanax.

The doctor said an antipsychotic might help me forget
what the trauma said.

The trauma said, “Don’t write this poem.
Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones.”

But my bones said, “Tyler Clementi dove into the Hudson River
convinced he was entirely alone.”

My bones said, “Write the poem.”
To the lamplight considering the river bed,
to the chandelier of your faith hanging by a thread,
to everyday you cannot get out of bed,
to the bullseye of your wrist,
to anyone who has ever wanted to die:

I have been told sometimes the most healing thing we can do
is remind ourselves over and over and over
other people feel this too.

The tomorrow that has come and gone
and it has not gotten better.

When you are half finished writing that letter
to your mother that says “I swear to God I tried,
but when I thought I’d hit bottom, it started hitting back.”

There is no bruise like the bruise
loneliness kicks into your spine
so let me tell you I know there are days
it looks like the whole world is dancing in the streets
while you break down like the doors of their looted buildings.
You are not alone
in wondering who will be convicted of the crime
of insisting you keep loading your grief
into the chamber of your shame.

You are not weak
just because your heart feels so heavy.
I have never met a heavy heart that wasn’t a phone booth
with a red cape inside.

Some people will never understand
the kind of superpower it takes for some people
to just walk outside some days.
I know my smile can look like the gutter of a falling house
but my hands are always holding tight to the rip cord of believing
a life can be rich like the soil,
can make food of decay,
turn wound into highway.

Pick me up in a truck with that bumper sticker that says,
“It is no measure of good health
to be well adjusted to a sick society.”

I have never trusted anyone
with the pulled back bow of my spine
the way I trusted ones who come undone at the throat
screaming for their pulses to find the fight to pound.
Four nights before Tyler Clementi
jumped from the George Washington bridge
I was sitting in a hotel room in my own town
calculating exactly what I had to swallow
to keep a bottle of sleeping pills down.

What I know about living
is the pain is never just ours.
Every time I hurt I know the wound is an echo,
so I keep listening for the moment the grief becomes a window,
when I can see what I couldn’t see before
through the glass of my most battered dream
I watched a dandelion lose its mind in the wind
and when it did, it scattered a thousand seeds.

So the next time I tell you how easily I come out of my skin
don’t try to put me back in.
Just say, “Here we are” together at the window
aching for it to all get better
but knowing there is a chance
our hearts may have only just skinned their knees,
knowing there is a chance the worst day might still be coming

let me say right now for the record,
I’m still gonna be here
asking this world to dance,
even if it keeps stepping on my holy feet.

You, you stay here with me, okay?
You stay here with me.

Raising your bite against the bitter dark,
your bright longing,
your brilliant fists of loss.
Friend, if the only thing we have to gain in staying is each other,
my god that is plenty
my god that is enough
my god that is so so much for the light to give
each of us at each other’s backs
whispering over and over and over,
“Live. Live. Live.”

 

 

To listen to Andrea Gibson perform this poem, click here.

For more information on poet and performer Andrea Gibson, click here.

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Microsoft’s Co-founder Paul Allen and the Great Elephant Census

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I subscribe to an elephant newsfeed (surprise surprise)  and I often scan the headlines and move on but I stopped at this one when I learned that Paul Allen had died.  Paul Allen in addition to being the co-founder of Microsoft, was also a philanthropist who donated millions of dollars to fund a variety of charities.

In particular, however, he funded the Great Elephant Census which was an extraordinary undertaking. By collaborating across borders, cultures and jurisdictions a successful survey of massive scale was completed and what was learned was deeply disturbing.

The census revealed for the first time the dramatic decline of elephant populations. Paul Allen’s belief was that we share a collective responsibility to take action and we must all work to ensure the preservation of this iconic species.Beyond a significant amount of his personal time and effort, Paul Allen spent more than $7 million to fund and manage the project, create the technology, and make the census results available online.

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Mike Chase, principal investigator and founder of Elephants Without Borders says “

“If we can’t save the African elephant, what is the hope of conserving the rest of Africa’s wildlife? I am hopeful that, with the right tools, research, conservation efforts and political will, we can help conserve elephants for decades to come.”

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In a world where wildlife faces so many dire challenges, it is the extraordinary kindness and generosity of people like Paul Allen who offer a bright spot on what seems to be a long uphill battle. But every little bit matters. I am thankful to Mr. Allen and his team for lending their hearts, resources and expertise to help one of the worlds most remarkable species and I am very sad to hear of his passing at such a young age..

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The piece below is long but it tells you a little bit about who he was:

“On the evening of September 12th, Orca Network Co-Founder Susan Berta got a call: A Seattleite wanted help IDing a whale pod he’d photographed while visiting Rosario Strait in northern Washington. But this was no ordinary citizen reporting an orca sighting: More than 200,000 followers could share in his enthusiasm for the famously endangered J-pod.

“Lucky to get a show from these orcas today while out on the water! Incredible sighting off James Island. May have been the J Pod. pic.twitter.com/ReWhenfYUk
— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) September 13, 2018

“We were excited: We’d never gotten a whale report from Paul Allen before,” Berta says of the tech billionaire. “We knew he was interested in orcas and conservation and other things, but had never worked directly with him… it was neat that he cared enough to want to know which whales they were.

“We didn’t know at the time that his cancer had come back.”

A little more than a month later, Allen—the celebrated co-founder of Microsoft and revitalizer of Seattle who donated billions to charities—passed away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 65.

“We were just shocked and saddened, but also felt a little comfort knowing he had spent a beautiful September day with the southern resident orcas,” Berta says. “It seems like whales have a way of showing up for people at the right time.”

Cataloguing all of Allen’s far-reaching personal and professional passions would be a difficult undertaking. But while he pursued tech-adjacent efforts to send people into space or crack the mystery of the human brain, some of Allen’s most earnest interests kept his mind occupied with an earthbound community that technology often leaves behind: the natural world.

In his well-traveled private life, Allen discovered a kinship with and concern for the natural world that many share. But he applied his famously analytical mind to quantitative initiatives meant to preserve a planet he’d helped to broadly transform.

Paul and his team at umbrella-company Vulcan spearheaded some of the most influential climate and wildlife projects in human history—which friends say stemmed as much from emotional and moral imperatives as they did intellectual ones.

Crosscut reached out to conservation advocates, researchers, and Allen’s Vulcan colleagues to learn more about how his charitable support for environmental programs evolved from a personal passion into historic efforts to save the natural world—in a uniquely Paul Allen way.

Paul’s Curiosity

“One of the unique things about Paul is that he has a personal investment in every single thing he funds,” says Dr. Sam Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, who received two significant Vulcan grants for a project analyzing elephant ivory DNA in Africa.

For years, Paul’s curiosity about the natural world kept Dr. James Deutsch awake at night— in a positive way, he says. Deutsch left the Wildlife Conservation Society three years ago to join Vulcan as Director of Biodiversity Conservation.

“Those of us who worked for Paul would receive email messages at 2 in the morning because Paul had just read the latest article in Nature and wanted to know what we thought about it, and whether he could do something about the issue,” Deutsch told Crosscut the day after Allen passed. “That’s just how we worked — he was, like, scarily insatiable about consuming scientific information.”

One of Allen’s keenest obsessions was with elephants. He was struck by their extraordinary intelligence, their sociology, and their importance to the comprehensive African ecosystem. He visited with them on safaris for decades.

When he saw environmental injustice in person, his response was intense — especially with elephants. Allen’s investments in African anti-poaching projects, Deutsch says, “grew out of his direct experience visiting parks in Africa and seeing the decline of elephants and seeing the poaching crisis.”

While developing a program in Tanzania to end wildlife trafficking, Allen flew to Tanzania to personally interview the eventual head of the unit in the field.

But while his love for animals is well documented, colleagues say Allen also considered whether humans suffered repercussions from environmental problems when deciding where to put his resources.

Allen’s interest in coral reef remediation and protection, came from worries about the number of people dependent on reefs for their livelihood as much as a desire to continue diving in them.

Learning that as many as one billion people depend on reefs for food and jobs—and that as much as 90 percent of reefs could die by 2050—Paul G. Allen Philanthropies invested in a project to map and monitor all of the world’s shallow-water reefs. All of the visual data is open-source and available for non-commercial use. (Although—to be fair—his yacht’s crew sometimes inadvertently damaged the coral reefs he loved so much.)

Paul’s Approach

Environmental issues spoke to Allen’s sense of humanity and morality, but the ways in which he processed and attacked environmental problems mirrored his actions in the tech world.

“Every single project and program that we ran, he was involved in designing it —he approved it and then followed up to see how it was doing,” Deutsch says. “He wanted to make sure that everything was built on good data with clear, empirical answers —not wishful thinking.”

Once again, this was most pronounced in Vulcan’s work with African elephants. The Great Elephant Census, which ran from 2014 through 2016, ended of illegal ivory importers’ claims that elephants were plentiful in certain African countries, and that environmentalists were overstating the poaching problem.

Facing a dearth of facts, the Vulcan team had to complete the first aerial survey of the elephant population in more than four decades and collate the evidence into a database. The team concluded that the African savanna elephant population in 18 countries had decreased an astounding 30 percent between 2007 and 2014.

The result led Allen to funnel upward of $25 million into elephant anti-poaching efforts over his lifetime.

“These are things that are very difficult to get funded, but Paul and his staff saw the value in this kind of work,” says University of Washington’s Wasser. With Allen’s help, Wasser oversaw one of the broadest-ever DNA analyses of seized African elephant ivory — about 32 tons worth. The effect was immediate: By connecting ivory DNA from different seizures back to individual traffickers, Wasser’s team continues to help Homeland Security charge trafficking cartels with increased criminal penalties.

Allen also twinned his passion for environmental protection with his well-documented support of the arts. Allen co-produced the documentary Chasing the Thunder, an upcoming feature documentary from international marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd.

Captain Paul Watson—founder, CEO, and president of Sea Shepherd—says the film follows the longest pursuit of a fish poacher in maritime history (the Thunder tracked Patagonian toothfish), and makes salient the difficulties in stopping oceanic wildlife crimes—but that’s hardly Allen’s biggest contribution to marine anti-poaching efforts. Once again, a dramatic technological solution arose from Allen’s involvement in the movie.

“The funding of the film was one thing, but probably the most important thing was helping to set up a global satellite surveillance system [called Skylight] that monitors fishing vessels—which has been incredibly useful to us in our pursuit of poachers on the high seas,” Watson says.

Allen was famous for owning a massive yacht where he held parties with rock stars in glitzy locales like Cannes. But his appreciation for marine science was apparent to anyone who knew what to look for.

“He’d have his yacht there every year—which was more like a 300-foot fully equipped oceanographic research vessel, really,” Watson says. “He’ll be sorely missed. It’s amazing. He’s so young to die at 65 but when you think about all the things that he achieved it’s absolutely miraculous that he did so,” Watson says.

Paul’s Impact

Supporters are worried for wildlife in a world without Allen. But he created infrastructure and data repositories that will give the public enduring means to further future research using his technological approach.

The Great Elephant Census’ value could’ve ended there, but in 2017, Allen launched a big-data initiative to enable future tracking of endangered wildlife. The Domain Awareness System, a connection of smart sensors and drones throughout Africa, makes real-time data collection of threatened species over a 90,000-square-mile area possible.

In his last month, Vulcan announced an initiative to equip its global wildlife tracking programs with machine learning capabilities created within its own Vulcan Machine Learning Center for Impact.

“I hope that his example of leadership [and] effectiveness in conservation will provide motivation for people to get involved, to believe that biodiversity conservation can work if we focus on it — regardless of whether we have Paul’s resources or the labor of our own hands,” Deutsch says. “When you look across his philanthropy, understandably the most involvement is in the most immediate crises we have, like sheltering homeless people in Seattle, but if some of us—both in action and giving money—aren’t also involved in environmental conservation, then there’s no way that our species or children are going to survive or thrive.”

https://crosscut.com/2018/10/elephant-man-paul-allens-quest-save-planet-itself

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How Japan’s Hanko Ivory Destroyed Africa’s Elephants

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Japan and the Killing of Elephants

Sometimes the word ivory feels a little too objective for me. Ivory is actually an elephant’s tusk which they use because it’s theirs to use. It’s essential to their survival. Tusks are used for defense, offense, digging, lifting objects, gathering food, and stripping bark to eat from trees. They also protect the sensitive trunk, which is tucked between them when the elephant charges. In times of drought, elephants dig water holes in dry riverbeds by using their tusks, feet, and trunk.

It’s unfortunate that somewhere down the line somebody figured out that these tusks can be harvested from an elephant by killing it, and that the “tusk” can be carved into trinkets, jewellery, piano keys, chopsticks etc…. But you have to kill the elephant to get the tusk. That’s just the way it works.

brent-japan-ivory-nationalgeographic_1494083.adapt.1900.1.jpgAbout 100 years ago there were approximately 10 million elephants in Africa. According to the Great Elephant Census of 2016 only 400,000 or thereabouts remain. With 30,000 or so being killed for their tusks per year they will be extinct in the wild within 10 years. The UK, France, China and the US announced bans with Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong soon to follow suit. Elephanatics is advocating that Canada also ban the sale of ivory but we’re waiting for the Honourable Minister to make up her mind about this issue.

Since the closure of these markets the “ivory trade” is flowing to two other markets, Japan and Vietnam.

japanivory_00013.adapt.1900.1.jpgJapan has long resisted closing the trade in any way, just like they resist closing the Taiji dolphin slaughter.  Japan has consumed ivory from at least 262,500 elephants since 1970, the vast majority from large, mature adults. A 2015 JTEF and EIA single-day survey of Yahoo! Japan and Rakuten, a popular e-commerce site, likewise revealed some 12,200 ads for ivory—about 10 percent of which indicated, illegally, that the material could be shipped overseas.

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The article below is long but it’s worth reading. Elephants are like people. They are highly intelligent, emotional and complex animals. They are a keystone species which means we need them.  I am hoping that the next generation of human beings will be justifiably horrified and appalled at our horrifying treatment of animals and wildlife including this astonishing species.  While we dither they die. What a profound loss that is for everyone but especially them.

HOW JAPAN UNDERMINES EFFORTS TO STOP THE ILLEGAL IVORY TRADE

 

 

 

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Ben Mulroney Interview with Dr. Beyers on the Inexplicable Canadian Elephant Ivory Law and the Botswana Massacre

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Elephanatics is a small Vancouver-based not-for-profit that advocates on behalf of African and Asian elephants. We’re a small team with a host of amazing volunteers and advisors. In response to the recent massacre of elephants in Botswana, Elephanatics was asked to comment on CTV with journalist Ben Mulroney.  Dr. Rene Beyers, a zoologist at UBC and one of our amazing supporters and advisors, answered some tough questions on why the massacre happened, and why Canada still hasn’t done anything to close the legal trade of ivory.

A big thanks to Rene for being the voice of elephants in Canada on our behalf. You can watch this interview here. #ivoryfreecanada

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Poem of the Week: Oh, The Water by Dorianne Laux via Poetry Mistress Alison

You are the hero of this poem,
the one who leans into the night
and shoulders the stars, smoking
a cigarette you’ve sworn is your last
before reeling the children into bed.

Or you’re the last worker on the line,
lifting labeled crates onto the dock,
brown arms bare to the elbow,
your shirt smelling of seaweed and soap.

You’re the oldest daughter
of an exhausted mother, an inconsolable
father, sister to the stones thrown down
on your path. You’re the brother
who warms his own brother’s bottle,
whose arm falls asleep along the rail of his crib.

We’ve stood next to you in the checkout line,
watched you flip through tabloids or stare
at the TV Guide as if it were the moon,
your cart full of cereal, toothpaste, shampoo,
day-old bread, bags of gassed fruit,
frozen pizzas on sale for 2.99.

In the car you might slide in a tape, listen
to Van Morrison sing Oh, the water.
You stop at the light and hum along, alone.

When you slam the trunk in the driveway,
spilling the groceries, dropping your keys,
you’re someone’s love, their one brave hope;
and if they don’t run to greet you or help
with the load, they can hear you,
they know you’ve come home.

​For more information on Dorianne Laux, please ​check out her website.
All these poems come via Alison McGhee who lovingly curates them,

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Random Musing: Bike to Work (hell)

My bike to work week started a good month after the official start which is the end of May early June. I took my time this year because there are a lot of mental preparation that goes into even getting my bike out of the bike locker.

First, I have to get down to the bike locker and then somehow I have to get myself to go in. Even though I pass the bike locker every single day, actually getting in there is a little like climbing Everest itself.

Once I wrap my mind around this I have to start considering the key to the bike lock. Where is it? Bike lock keys belong to the world of tiny keys that unlock mysteries in tiny places everywhere. And let’s face it, all keys look alike.

Then I have to remember where I put my panniers. By now I’m already feeling like I’m doing a gigantic 5 kilometer ride up a very steep hill and I haven’t even gotten on my bike yet.

When I finally have the bike, the lock, panniers, helmet which I didn’t have because I drove over it with my car last year, then I’m ready to consider next steps. What am I going to put in those panniers? How do I stuff my work clothes in there and look presentable? Well, that’s easy. I don’t. I’ve accepted that I look like a complete red-faced sweaty woman with wild hair who by some grace of good luck doesn’t stink. At least I’m assuming I don’t.

When I finally get to the biking part I conveniently forget the misery that was last year’s biking season, mainly the complete uphill relentless slog that is Willingdon, Patterson or anything that takes you to “Metrotown”.

Last year I cried. Real tears not fake ones. Why oh why oh why am I doing this I kept thinking to myself? So I’m not sure what made me think this year would be any different.

It’s true, last year’s biking got me ready and able to do the Juan de Fuca Trail fairly effortlessly. I lost my winter fat, I felt fit. Also, I like not driving my car because traffic is crazy and it fills me with rage and it feels good to pass people sitting in their cars when I’m flying down the big hill I have to come up in the mornings.

So having gone through the herculean effort of getting me and my bike ready for the ride, I finally did it this week – twice. The first time was evil. I foolishly believed that my winter (and spring) of doing nothing would prepare me but it didn’t. I also thought that maybe I was still fit from last year. That also turned out not to be true.

So it was hard. And today’s was even harder because I was still exhausted from two days before. But I’m proud to say there were no tears. Was there grimacing? Yes. Was there drool running down my chin? Yes. I’m hoping that the drooling will end by the end of next week when I’ll have three more rides under my belt. Wish me luck.

 

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Lemon Drop (martini, of course)

The Lemon Drop Martini is a thing of beauty. Perfect for breezy summer evenings, a drink on the dock, or backyard BBQ, it’s great anytime, anywhere as long as someone else makes it for you! That’s the key. It needs to be delivered on a tray in an icy, frosted glass.

In an attempt to cheer myself up this last weekend, I cooked like crazy and Dave made Lemon Drops, (several I might add and which turned to Lime Drops when we eventually ran out of lemons). It was nothing less than a perfect collaboration. And guess what? I climbed out of my downward spiral of OH MY GOD the world is going to hell and other self-inflicted sadnesses that seemed determined to take me down. unnamed.jpg

Here’s how to make these lovely little gems.

For one Single Lemon Drop
Ingredients:
11/2ounces vodka
1/2 ounce triple sec
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
3/4 ounce fresh lemon (or lime) juice
4 to 5 ice cubes
lemon twist

Chill martini glass in freezer for ten minutes. Pour vodka, triple sec, sugar and lemon into martini shaker with ice cubes. Use lemon to rim the glass and dunk in sugar. Shake martini shaker, pour, drink, enjoy and repeat!
Cheers!

While Dave made these I prepared an appetizer of avocado, prawns and aioli with a twist of lemon, followed by fresh tomato bisque soup finished with whipped cream, and then the final course, pasta with fresh pesto. The next night I made paella. I’m happy to say that all this food and drink celebration beat back the sads and I had a fantastic weekend enjoying something of a culinary and liquid renaissance!

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Italian Grandma Pesto

101 Cookbooks is my new favourite vegetarian cooking website. I love the context and details provided for each recipe. There  isn’t so much that it’s too much to read but there’s exactly enough to give you everything you need to understand the “why” of cooking something a certain way.

I’m not a lover of commercial pesto and rarely eat it but this pesto is simple and fabulous. The trick is to hand chop everything. You can get the full explanation of why it is so much better here but my own feeling is that the unevenness of hand-chopping makes each bite a little different.

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Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic
  • one small handful of raw pine nuts
  • roughly 3/4 cup Parmesan, loosely packed and freshly grated
  • A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
INSTRUCTIONS
Chop Ingredients
The official chopping protocol from 101 Cookbooks is below. As I’m incapable of being able to follow any recipe to the letter, we simply chopped the large bunch of basil, the handful of nuts, and garlic and then slowly added in the parmesan and then made sure it was properly mixed. The 101 Cooks method leaves you with something of a pesto cake (yum!). We prepared some elbow pasta, mixed in the pesto added salt and pepper and presto Pesto!
It was delicious.
  1. Chop the garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil leaves. Once this is loosely chopped add more basil, chop some more, add the rest of the basil, chop some more. At this point the basil and garlic should be a very fine mince. Add about half the pine nuts, chop. Add the rest of the pine nuts, chop. Add half of the Parmesan, chop. Add the rest of the Parmesan, and chop. In the end you want a chop so fine that you can press all the ingredients into a basil “cake” – see the photo up above. Transfer the pesto “cake” to a small bowl (not much bigger than the cake).

Form a Paste
  1. Cover the pesto “cake” with a bit of olive oil. It doesn’t take much, just a few tablespoons. At this point, you can set the pesto aside, or place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Just before serving, give the pesto a quick stir to incorporate some of the oil into the basil. Francesca’s mom occasionally thins the pesto with a splash of pasta water for more coverage, but for our gnocchi this wasn’t necessary.

 

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Poem of the Week: To My Daughter on Her Twenty-First Birthday, by 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.
A big thanks to Alison for curating these gems and sharing them with the world.

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