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By Ellen Bass

For months my daughter carried

a dead monarch in a quart mason jar.

To and from school in her backpack,

to her only friend’s house.   At the dinner table

it sat like a guest alongside the pot roast.

She took it to bed, propped by her pillow.


Was it the year her brother was born?

Was this her own too-fragile baby

that had lived—so briefly—in its glassed world?

Or the year she refused to go to her father’s house?

Was this the holding-her-breath girl she became there?


This plump child in her rolled-down socks

I sometimes wanted to haul back inside me

and carry safe again.   What was her fierce

commitment?   I never understood.

We just lived with the dead winged thing

as part of her, as part of us,

weightless in its heavy jar.


Poem copyright © 2007 by Ellen Bass and reprinted from “The Human Line,” 2007, by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Poet Bio

Poet and teacher Ellen Bass grew up in New Jersey. She teaches in the MFA program at Pacific University and lives in Santa Cruz, California. Bass’s style is direct; she has noted, “I work to speak in a voice that is meaningful communication. Poetry is the most intimate of all writing. I want to speak from me to myself and then from me to you.”

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