As part of our ongoing celebration of the magazine’s fiftieth year in print, we asked Ellen Bass and Danusha Laméris to choose a poem by the other for this month’s Dog-Eared Page. We start with a conversation in which they discuss their shared history and why they selected the poems that follow.
The Big Picture
I try to look at the big picture. / The sun, ardent tongue / licking us like a mother besotted / with her new cub, will wear itself out. / Everything is transitory.
After my brother died, his wife was sure he was living / inside their cat, Rocky. He’s in there, she’d say, staring into / those blank, yellow eyes. Isma’il? Isma’il? Can you hear me?
Long after we divorced, long after you died of alcoholism, I still remember that day when I stepped out of the clinic, blinked hard against tears, sank into your VW Bug, pulled the door shut, and whispered, “I’m pregnant.”December 2022
What is it about a traffic stop and a city block and a sidewalk and a country road and a Bible study and a choir room and a vestibule and a playground and a living room and a bedroom and a bed and a driveway and a highway and a stairwell and a gas station and a suburb and a driver’s seat and a parking lot and a balcony and the door to one’s own home.December 2022
Ellie was a bedroom ghost: a dream-visitant, a gentle levitator, a classic cold-sweat presence-in-the-corner, but she felt under-sung. It’s not like the old days, she told us. They attribute everything I do to Ambien—December 2022
Of a fifty-year marriage, of an immigrant’s journey, of a terrorist attackDecember 2022
When Nonna Venere visited, she arrived by train like in a movie, stepping down from the first-class compartment enveloped by smoke, wearing a cloche with a veil. She had four large suitcases and no gifts.November 2022
The hardest thing about death, my mother said, is when you stop remembering what drove you mad. Like the way my father typed one key at a time, or how he spit in his hands to smooth cowlicks in his hair.October 2022
As he watches his daughter vanish in one direction and his wife in another, he thinks whatever it was that once held his family together has long since gone the way of that doomed landmass, swallowed by the sea.October 2022
My son posts a picture of himself at three years old / with his father, my first husband, / who still has black curly hair and is looking right out of the photograph / at me, as if he knew this day would come, me staring back / at him and wondering where that moment has gone.October 2022