Queer Poem-a-Day is a program from the Adult Services Department at the Library and may include adult language. 

The Morning After 

by Ellen Bass

You stand at the counter, pouring boiling water
over the French roast, oily perfume rising in smoke.
And when I enter, you don’t look up.
You’re hurrying to pack your lunch, snapping
the lids on little plastic boxes while you call your mother
to tell her you’ll take her to the doctor.
I can’t see a trace of the little slice of heaven
we slipped into last night—a silk kimono
floating satin ponds and copper koi, stars falling
to the water. Didn’t we shoulder
our way through the cleft in the rock of the everyday
and tear up the grass in the pasture of pleasure?
If the soul isn’t a separate vessel
we carry from form to form,
but more like Aristotle’s breath of life—
the work of the body that keeps it whole—
then last night, darling, our souls were busy.
But this morning it’s like you’re wearing a bad wig,
disguised so I won’t recognize you
or maybe so you won’t know yourself
as that animal burned down
to pure desire. I don’t know
how you do it. I want to throw myself
onto the kitchen tile and bare my throat.
I want to slick back my hair
and tap-dance up the wall. I want to do it all
all over again—dive back into that brawl,
that raw and radiant free-for-all.
But you are scribbling a shopping list
because the kids are coming for the weekend
and you’re going to make your special crab cakes
that have ruined me for all other crab cakes
forever.

Copyright © 2014 by Ellen Bass. Used with the permission of the author. Originally published in the poet’s collection Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014).

Ellen Bass’s most recent collection, Indigo, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2020. Her other poetry books include Like a Beggar, The Human Line, and Mules of Love. Her poems appear frequently in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, and many other journals. Among her awards are Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, The NEA, and The California Arts Council, The Lambda Literary Award, and four Pushcart Prizes. She co-edited the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks! (Doubleday, 1973), and her nonfiction books include the groundbreaking The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (HarperCollins, 1988) and Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth (1996). A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Bass founded poetry workshops at Salinas Valley State Prison and the Santa Cruz, California jails, and teaches in the MFA writing program at Pacific University.

Queer Poem-a-Day is directed by poet and teacher Lisa Hiton and Dylan Zavagno, Adult Services Coordinator at the Deerfield Public Library. Music for this second year of our series is the first movement, Schéhérazade, from Masques, Op. 34, by Karol Szymanowski, performed by pianist Daniel Baer. Queer Poem-a-Day is supported by generous donations from the Friends of the Deerfield Public Library and the Deerfield Fine Arts Commission