Everything on the Menu
By Ellen Bass
In a poem it doesn’t matter
if the house is dirty. Dust
that claims the photographs like a smothering
love. Sand spilled from a boy’s sneaker,
the faceted grains scattered on the emerald rug
like the stars and planets of a tiny
solar system. Monopoly
butted up against Dostoyevsky.
El techo, a shiny sticker, labeling the ceiling
from the summer a nephew studied Spanish.
Mold on bread in the refrigerator
is as interesting as lichen on an Oak—
its miniscule hairs like the fuzz
on an infant’s head, its delicate
blues and spring greens, its plethora of spores,
whole continents of creatures, dazzling our palms.
In a poem, life and death are equals.
We receive the child, crushed
like gravel under a tire.
And the grandfather at the open grave
holding her small blue sweatshirt to his face.
And we welcome the baby born
at daybreak, the mother naked, squatting
and pushing in front of the picture window
just as the garbage truck roars up
and men jump out, clanking
metal cans into its maw.
In a poem, we don’t care if you got hired
or fired, lost or found love,
recovered or kept drinking.
You don’t have to exercise
or forgive. We’re hungry.
We’ll take everything on the menu.
In a poem, joy and sorrow are mates.
They lie down together, their hands
all over each other, fingers
swollen in mouths,
nipples chafed to flame, their sexes
fitting seamlessly as day and night.
They arch over us, glistening and bucking,
the portals through which we enter our lives.
From: “Mules of Love