, May 22, 2024

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The Thing Is

  •   1 min read
The Thing Is
Photo by Jonatán Becerra on Unsplash

Intro by Ted Kooser

There’s a very fine book, Poet­ry of Pres­ence: An Anthol­o­gy of Mind­ful­ness Poems, pub­lished by Grayson Books of West Hart­ford, Con­necti­cut, and I’ve found a num­ber of poems for this col­umn there. Here’s anoth­er, this one by Ellen Bass, who lives in Cal­i­for­nia, and whose most recent book of poet­ry is Like a Beg­gar.

By Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you down like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2002 Ellen Bass, "The Thing Is," from Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, (Grayson Books, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Ellen Bass and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2022 by The Poetry Foundation.

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