21 November 2015

For My Daughter on Her Twenty-First 33rd Birthday

When they laid you in the crook
of my arms like a bouquet and I looked
into your eyes, dark bits of evening sky,
I thought, of course this is you,
like a person who has never seen the sea
can recognize it instantly.

They pulled you from me like a cork
and all the love flowed out. I adored you
with the squandering passion of spring
that shoots green from every pore.

You dug me out like a well. You lit
the deadwood of my heart. You pinned me
to the earth with the points of stars.

I was sure that kind of love would be
enough. I thought I was your mother.
How could I have known that over and over
you would crack the sky like lightning,
illuminating all my fears, my weaknesses, my sins.

Massive the burden this flesh
must learn to bear, like mules of love.

Ellen Bass


  1. I've never read this poem before. It's stunning. For some reason it made me think of the lyrics of Joni Mitchell's Judgement of the Moon and Stars. I think it was the line "you would crack the sky like lightning," that sent me searching for this: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/j/joni+mitchell/judgement+of+the+moon+and+stars_10153674.html

    Happy birthday to your daughter.

  2. Happy birthday to your lovely adventurous girl and thank you for that poem.

  3. May all that is right for your Sunday's Child come her way.

  4. Happy 33rd Birthday to your daughter!

    Thinking about the mules of the love that moves the sun and other stars.

  5. Wonderful poem, happy birthday to your girl.

  6. I was shocked at how deeply I loved my daughter after she was born. I am going to have to share this with her. She is now the mother of a daughter and she will understand.

  7. Wow. Ellen Bass nails it again.