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Sacrifices Have to be Human
101 pages / poems
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Sacrifices Have to be Human, is a gritty, image-rich navigation of love, loss and longing, written
by one who knows how to walk in the world with an open, ever-breaking heart. Poems about difficult
illnesses and untimely deaths of loved ones are juxtaposed with longings to fill a young street
child's day with simple joys. These poems teem with life and vibrant imagery‐poppies that reject
the confines of a vase, sensual women looking to moon, wolves, and scorpions for an echo of their
own desperations, a bag of oranges left on a railing that serves as symbolic meeting point between
tentative giver and lonely receiver. Through her openness to a range of forms, tones, and verbal
experimentation, ellen's poems earn the weight of this book's startling title, proving that to
fully give one's self again and again is the ultimate expression of humanity, and of poetry.
‐Shirley Graham What Someone Wanted, Black Moss Press, & Blue Notes, Other Tongue Press
In Sacrifices Have To Be Human the horizontal line of narrative and the vertical line of lyricism criss-
cross and sparkle. There is light in this book, there is pain. The reader enters, almost as if following
a secret path, a universe of acute perception. The language is intelligent, at the same time revealing
and contained. This is a courageous book, the poet is vulnerable enough, brave enough, to tell us a
story of search, rebellion, surrender , understanding and mystery.
‐Mariano Zaro The House of Mae Rim, Carayan Press & Tres Letras, Walrus
Sacrifices Have To Be Human is lyrical and intimate, surreal and raw in its truth-telling. ellen is working
the depths again in this haunting collection where anything is possible‐a hole may swallow a boy who
himself swallows death, a woman give birth to ravens, a tree sieve words from air. These poems rise from
sleep 'fragrant with milk and terror,' and from the ache of sacrifice, always human, and human, too, the altars.
‐Marsha de la O Black Hope, New Issues Press, Editor and Publisher of Adder's Tongue Press & Askew
About the Author:
ellen teaches creative writing for Emeritus College, a division of Santa Monica College. Hundreds of her poems
and stories have been published in The Los Angeles Times, Slant, Mudfish, Slipstream, ACM, Coe Review and others.
She has won writing awards from DA Center for the Arts, Blue Unicorn, Cape Cod Times and others. She was nominated
for Pushcart Prizes in 2008 and 2009. A finalist in the 2006 Spire Poetry Book Award, the 2005 Flume Press Poetry
Contest, and the 2004 Pearl Poetry Prize, her work has been included in a number of anthologies. A collection of
her poetry along with three others is entitled 4 Los Angeles Poets. Her chapbook Reverse Kiss was editor's choice
and published by Main Street Rag in 2005. Her poetry book, The Gynecic Papers, deals primary with women's issues.
Sleeping Guardian from Finishing Line Press was published in 2012.
ellen is also an artist and has had her work exhibited in the Weisman Museum of Art and the Ojai Valley Gallery.
She is the recipient of two first place awards from the Malibu Art Association. Her art has been published in Red
Dance floor, Vernal Calibrations and Isis Rising. She was profiled in the LA Times as a poet and artist.
From the Book:
Tree, You Took Too Long to Bloom
Banana tree, you soaked up my water, crumbled my walk,
swallowed a boy, that dark night of the hit and run.
Fresh sprints of blood, lavender ooze from bruises,
abrasion of a mind stripped, barren as you, by screech of tires
that sped off, leaving a stagnant body lost in sweaty palmed
confusion. A mumble of grunts called conversation saves
the carbon dioxide between us. I wait for the boy to recover.
I wait for you to bloom.
A punishment. Your leaves should beat against my skin,
slash me until blood is blotted up by handkerchiefs,
gauze blouses, yellow-red. You sprang a mutant growth,
all size without substance, hollow. I listened to you alone,
shivering in purple wind, splitting leaves to feather.
My night companion, smooth hewn and hard trunk
to put arms around, size of a young man's waist,
smooth as his face, I rub my wishes into you.
Tree, you grind the house with your growth, slice
walls in two movements. Machete, sword, a seething
spell of retribution. You must come down. I say it out loud
and you listen with ears that swoop down, scoop sound
from air that says you must die. And only then, you shove
that oversized promise, swollen, dull luster of labial red.
Full, hangs heavy, pregnant. My eyes move up,
find the crown, spikes of tiny green rinds.
Leaf-like sheaths sail through scarlet mornings, concave husks
of flower, shape of ancient canoe. You are an apparition, a shudder.
No other tree stirs near to seed you. I have been your pollen.
You birth bananas because of me. I'll keep you moored,
though your roots destroy foundations,
walls knuckle under your determination.
You claim my house, have it, as your green turns to yellow,
your fruit swells an apology to peel, eat, nourish.
There is movement. The boy's steps are stretched.
Yellow color slips to pink. His memory sucks life.
It is a celebration. Your magenta flowering, a torch.
I understand. You tell me in slap against house.
Rhythm of Los Angeles slides in and out of the night,
of my tree. My nights grow full with sleep