Elise Paschen

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Elise Paschen

Elise Paschen is the author of The Eloquent Poem (Persea, 2019), The Nightlife (Ren Hen Press, 2017), Bestiary (Red Hen Press, 2009), Infidelities (Story Line Press, 1996), winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize, and Houses: Coasts (Sycamore Press, 1985). Paschen served as executive director of the Poetry Society of America from 1988 until 2001 and cofounded the nationwide Poetry in Motion program. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and lives in Chicago.


by this poet


In need of air, she unhinged every
window, revolving ones downstairs,
upstairs skylights, mid-floor French doors,
swept into the house the salt-brine,
the cricket chirp, the osprey whistle,
the sea-current, sound of the Sound,
but had not noticed the basement
bedroom window

The night you were conceived
we balanced underneath a tent,

amazed at the air-marveler,
who, hand-over-hand, seized the stars,

then braved the line to carry home
a big-top souvenir umbrella.

Earth-bound a year, you dare
gravity, sliding from the couch

to table. Mornings, on tiptoe, 
stretching fingers, you
                         ". . . Prayer book and Mother, shot themselves last Sunday."
                                        Gwendolyn Brooks

The spire of Holy Name Cathedral rose like a prayer
above Chicago Avenue. I thumbed a leather-bound book
in catechism class, recited the Hail Mary. Fire and