Ellen Bass
Poem Not For My Son

There are things you can’t tell

a child — they’d sit too heavily

upon him, like the crowns

of young royalty:

Tutankhamen holding up

that twelve pound crust

of gold and emeralds

on his slender neck.


So I gaze at my boy

only when he’s sleeping,

when the torrent

won’t sweep him off

the cliff, when the beam

won’t scroch his retina.


He works out now,

lifting cold black

barbells, his muscles rising

like good bread.


Think of every great thing:

rush of grain

through the elevator shaft,

the crush of water

fathoms down, glaciers

calving, the surge and weight

of tectonic plates. I shut

the door on my love.

Just a faint glow seeping

under the crack.

Found In Volume 36, No. 02
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Ellen Bass
About the Author

Ellen Bass’s books include Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon, 2014), The Human Line, and Mules of Love. She co-edited (with Florence Howe) the groundbreaking No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (Doubleday, 1973).