Out at happy hour with Wendy and Darlene last week, the conversation meandered toward the inadequacy of language in naming non-marital, adult relationships. Boyfriend: those don’t really outlive high school. Lover: embarrassing, especially if your mother or children are within earshot. Mate: don’t dogs to that? Partner: does this include a non-disclosure clause and a corner office?
Which led me to Ellen Bass, whose poem Bone of My Bone and Flesh of My Flesh uplifts this dilemma of uncertainly named unions with wit and humor. When I came home, I found this link of Ellen reading her poem. As I shared it with Wendy and Darlene, then my mother and her [long-term-person-of-romantic interest-and-shared-household], I thought it was likely to resonate with anyone and everyone seeking the right name for their uniquely complex and glorious union.
But here’s the thing about Ellen Bass. EVERYTHING she writes about is this worthy of passing on to everyone you can think of, which is why I’m offering you yet another example right here. I explode in tears each time I read Bass’ poem Gate C22. Listen to it in Ellen’s own voice, and read along on The Writer’s Almanac, (where you can also experience the poem in the voice of Garrison Keillor). And while you’re at it, you definitely shouldn’t miss Dead Butterfly.
All of these poems are from The Human Line, by Ellen Bass. If you love poetry, get this book as soon as possible. Then get under your covers, and read it from cover to cover. (Tea and tissues are handy accessories.) And if you’re not so sure about poetry but you appreciate resonating with the palpably rendered human experience that gives you back some previously undiscovered facet of yourself, get this book as soon as possible!
Then, I want to hear about your favorites.