Relax, a favorite poem by Ellen Bass


Magnolias outside my door, Berkeley, CA

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.

Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat–
the one you never really liked–will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.

No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up–drug money.

There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice–one white, one black–scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.

So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

Relax, from Like a Beggar, by Ellen Bass



  1. Posted January 28, 2014 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Hell yes, Ellen Bass. Hell yes. (I kept Mules of Love on my night stand for all of of a particularly trying year.)

  2. Posted January 28, 2014 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    Yeah … just like that. I found a meditation group near my hometown (which is my home again for about a month now) and Monday nights are now reminding me to eat the strawberries, except my strawberries are long walks on the beach whatever the weather.

    Life is…

  3. Posted January 30, 2014 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful poem and a lovely thing to share Andrea. Thank you for this juicy sweet poetry strawberry today, you made me smile :) xo

  4. Katrin
    Posted January 30, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    You live close to a palmtree! That’s just not right
    *puts freezing feet closer to the heater while looking out at snow*
    I’m off to look for my strawberry, it must be around here somewhere…

  5. Elisa Mikiten
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Okay, yes but she got the Balance wrong. It’s mostly strawberries, when we’re not preoccupied with ourselves. Gorgeous blue sky and lacy bare trees outside my window right now, while in my own head there’s nothing but self-centered worries.

  6. Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely adore this!! Thank you for sharing!

  7. Posted February 4, 2014 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    Chills. (The good kind.)

  8. April
    Posted March 2, 2014 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    This falls in the category of poems called “Loving the World Anyway” … A category in The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart

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