Our Most Basic Imperative

After Our Daughter’s Wedding by Ellen Bass, from Mules of Love


Mules of Love While the remnants of cake and half-empty champagne glasses lay on the lawn like sunbathers lingering in the slanting light, we left the house guests and drove to Antonelli's pond. On a log by the bank I sat in my flowered dress and cried. A lone fisherman drifted by, casting his ribbon of light. "Do you feel like you've given her away?" you asked. But no, it was that she made it to here, that she didn't drown in a well or die of pneumonia or take the pills. She wasn't crushed under the mammoth wheels of a semi on highway 17, wasn't found lying in the alley that night after rehearsal when I got the time wrong. It's animal. The egg not eaten by a weasel. Turtles crossing the beach, exposed in the moonlight. And we have so few to start with. And that long gestation— like carrying your soul out in front of you. All those years of feeding and watching. The vulnerable hollow at the back of the neck. Never knowing what could pick them off—a seagull swooping down for a clam. Our most basic imperative: for them to survive. And there's never been a moment we could count on it.


[Thanks Garrison Keillor! More by Ellen Bass.]