Part 4 Contributors


Tony Barnstone
Willis Barnstone
Ellen Bass
Christopher Buckley
Neeli Cherkovski
Boris Dralyuk
Alicia Elkort
Mary Fitzpatrick
Michael C. Ford
Kate Gale
Frank X. Gaspar
Dana Gioia
Shotsie Gorman
S.A. Griffin
Donna Hilbert
Brenda Hillman
Glenna Luschei
Phoebe MacAdams
devorah major
Clive Matson
K. Silem Mohammad
Rusty Morrison
Harry Northup
Holly Prado Northup - In Memoriam
Cathie Sandstrom
Shelley Scott - In Memoriam
Daniel Shapiro
Mike Sonksen
Pam Ward
Sholeh Wolpe
Gary Young
Mariano Zaro

Part 1 Contributors

Rae Armantrout
Bart Edelman
David Garyan
Suzanne Lummis
Glenna Luschei
Bill Mohr
D. A. Powell
Amy Uyematsu
Paul Vangelisti
Charles Harper Webb
Bruce Willard
Gail Wronsky

Part 2 Contributors

Elena Karina Byrne
liz gonzález
Grant Hier
Lois P. Jones
Ron Koertge
Glenna Luschei
Rooja Mohassessy
Susan Rogers
Patty Seyburn
Maw Shein Win
Kim Shuck
Lynne Thompson
Carine Topal
Cecilia Woloch

Part 3 Contributors

Michelle Bitting
Laurel Ann Bogen
Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Lucille Lang Day
Corrinne Clegg Hales
Marsha De La O
Charles Jensen
Eloise Klein Healy
Glenna Luschei
Clint Margrave
Henry Morro
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Phil Taggart
David L. Ulin
Jonathan Yungkans
Lorene Zarou-Zouzounis

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Click to enlarge picture Ellen Bass
Ellen Bass
Californian Poets Part 4: Three Poems
Ellen Bass



Jews Probably Arriving to the Lodz Ghetto circa 1941–1942

Why is a horse here
alongside the train? Two horses

yoked with leather harnesses, light
silvering their flanks

in the midst of the Jews
descending? Where is the driver

taking the cart, loaded
with wooden planks?

What is in the satchel
that weighs down the arm

of a woman in a dark coat,
her hair parted on one side?

A woman I could mistake
for my mother

in the family album. Only
my mother was in Philadelphia,

selling milk and eggs and penny candy
because her mother escaped the pogroms,

a small girl in steerage
crying for her mother.

What are the tight knots
of people saying to one another?

A star burns the right shoulder blade
of each man, each woman. Light strikes

each shorn neck
and caps each skull. No one is yet

stripped of all but a pail
or a tin to drink from and piss in.

Dread, like sun, sears the air
and breaks over the planes of their faces.

Light clatters down upon them
like stones, but we can’t hear it.

Nor can we hear blood
thud under their ribs.

They will be led into the ghetto
and then will be led out to the camps,

but for now, the eternal now,
the light is silent,

silent the shadows
in the folds of their coats. The bones

of the horses are almost visible.
Their nostrils are deep, soft shadows.

And the woman,
who could be but is not

my mother,
still carries her canvas bag

and, looking closer,
what might be a small purse.

from Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, 2020)


This morning before we’re even out of bed, she’s
wading thigh deep in some kind of existential dread. She’s been living
in a grotto of fear. Not suicidal—
her grandparents didn’t flee the pogroms
just so she could down a handful of confetti-colored pills.
But she’s asking why she is living
when every step she takes is a slog through this murky water.
Terrible as it is to admit, the first response I think of is
for a great cappuccino.
I’m remembering waking up in southern Italy
outside Alberobello. It was December and every day
we’d bundle up and walk into town to drink that creamy brew
with fresh-baked bread and slabs of butter.
But of course I don’t say that.
I don’t say anything.
I’ve already said every hopeful thing I can think of.
But she says, I have to look at my fear with curiosity.
Like when we were watching the larvae hatch
A few weeks ago she found a cluster of eggs on a blackberry leaf.
When we got it under the hand lens,
they were glued together in a perfect symmetry.
And at that exact moment the first larvae were cracking
through their casings, white, soft-bodied babies pushing and pushing,
working to get through the tiny opening.
They’d swallowed the amniotic water and were swollen with it.
As I stared, scale shifted and the head of the one that was first
to be born began to seem huge as it labored toward release.
Like a human head trying to squeeze through the cervix.
We watched the slippery larva reach
the threshold and slide into the open,
bearing the command of its body to be born
and then to start eating the green flesh of the earth.
I remember how light she was, how almost happy,
and how, for a moment, I wasn’t afraid.

from Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, 2020)

Not Dead Yet

         for Dan

The apricot tree with its amputated limbs
like a broken statue.

Condors. Bluefins. Lioness
at Amboseli, her bloodstained mouth.
She rises and walks beyond the shade of the thornbush,
crouches and pees.

My mother-in-law. Should I kill myself? she asks me—
her mind an abandoned building,
a few squatters lighting fires in the empty rooms.

Fire. Wildfires. The small animals running.

Paramecia swimming in a petri dish.

My son’s rabbits nibbling grass. Soon
he’ll cradle each one and speak to it
in a silent language
before breaking its neck. But today,
in the feverish heat, he wraps
his old T-shirt around a block of ice
for them to lean against.

Hair. Nails. Heart
carried in ice. Sperm
carried in a vial between a woman’s breasts.

Bach. Coltrane. The ocean
even with its radiation and plastic islands.
Farmed salmon, even with their rotting flesh.

Two young women on the beach at Cala San Vicente.
One kisses the shoulder of the other
before she smooths on sunscreen.

Wind. The bougainvillea’s shadow
shivering on the cold wall. Stone. The quiver
inside each atom.

Sappho: mere air,
these words, but delicious to hear

from Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, 2020)