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Any Common Desolation by Ellen Bass


Someone almost jumped the other day. My neighbours spoke of the pounding on the doors as people tried to save her. The pounding of their hearts as they hoped so hard, as they heard her sister shout I love you, I love you, over and over.

How many times have I been there, gripping the railing of my life, the desire to fall into the abyss where nothing hurts running so deep in my veins? How many times have I been the one shouting against the wind, hoping to save myself?

Eventually they got her down. Then curtains were drawn, windows closed. Everybody went back to their life. The night went on.

I remain standing. I remain looking.

Any Common Desolation
Ellen Bass

can be enough to make you look up
at the yellowed leaves of the apple tree, the few
that survived the rains and frost, shot
with late afternoon sun. They glow a deep
orange-gold against a blue so sheer, a single bird
would rip it like silk. You may have to break
your heart, but it isn’t nothing
to know even one moment alive. The sound
of an oar in an oarlock or a ruminant
animal tearing grass. The smell of grated ginger.
The ruby neon of the liquor store sign.
Warm socks. You remember your mother,
her precision a ceremony, as she gathered
the white cotton, slipped it over your toes,
drew up the heel, turned the cuff. A breath
can uncoil as you walk across your own muddy yard,
the big dipper pouring night down over you, and everything
you dread, all you can’t bear, dissolves
and, like a needle slipped into your vein—
that sudden rush of the world.

[expand title=”Endnotes” tag=”h6″ expanded=”true”]

This poem appeared in Indigo by Ellen Bass, published by Copper Canyon Press, 2020. Shared here with profound gratitude.

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[expand title=”Dear Reader” tag=”h6″]

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