L. Shapley Bassen

Four Poems – L. Shapley Bassen

Grisaille, 2020

grisaille is a painting executed entirely in shades of grey or of another neutral greyish color. Paintings executed in brown are referred to as brunaille, and paintings executed in green are called verdaille. A grisaille may be executed for its own sake, as underpainting for an oil painting, or as a model for an engraver to work from.

Spring has no patience with viral monochrome.
April can be cruel, filling purple azalea flowers
with sudden snow, though their color comes through.
Wind can bend the daffodils but not dim yellow.
Magnolias pink and star, and in a row five
cherry-plum trees in full bloom fill an aisle
like distanced brides in gowns and veils. Portrait
of a plague whose underpainting now in grey, brown,
or green weighs heavy, makes it hard to breathe.
I crave Fauves to heap impasto with palette knives
over grey bones with their blues, red skies, Rouault
black-lined resurrections. A mask conceals
the rainbow, gloves cover hands, color imagines us.


Physicists at the Beach

Quantum mechanics, not Newtonian physics, applies to subatomic particles. Both the position AND momentum of a particle cannot be known with absolute precision. Either can be known precisely, but then we know nothing about the other. This is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.


He is thirsty, observing
the woman lying on her side on the hot sand,
cheek upon brown arm, eyelids closed, jeweled with sweat.
Her hip is the curve the sky slides down blue,
and the bone beneath is the point all lines derive from.
It is therefore clear… there is no gravity,
only the curve of space, irresistible and slippery
as the sides of the well where all cool waters pool.


Newton arranged it neatly.
Discretion in all matters great and small.
Each fits in its space sweetly;
collision occurs predictably or not at all.

In your arms before the ocean,
More modern theories of motion
become real.
What I feel
is either the parting of waves
where you are in me.


Past Life Experience

Just saw
a photo of —
Truman Capote.
Everyone I see
looks like
someone else
I once knew
whose name
escapes me now —
my face in the mirror.


Salix Babylonica

This is how you both have been dealing with the daughters of Israel, and they were intimate with you through fear; but a daughter of Judah would not endure your wickedness.
APOCRYPHA, Book of Susanna, 57


Daniel, I call to God through you.
I remove my veil before you
and reveal what two elders saw
in my husband Joakim’s house
here in Babylon where God
has allowed us all to be taken.
My beauty, they say, justified
their intended rape. I resisted
them, trusting to God and you.
Now I am condemned to die
for adultery they say I committed
with a young man too strong for them,
who opened the doors of my garden
and dashed away. They say they seized
me then and demanded who the young
man was, but I would not tell.
Daniel, I call to God through you.
I remove my veil before you
now I am condemned to die.


Then God aroused the holy spirit of a young lad
named Daniel, and he cried among the captive Jews
of Babylon with a loud voice, speaking for God,
“I am innocent of the blood of this woman.”
All the people turned to Daniel and said, “What
is this you have said?” Taking his stand
in the midst of them, he said, “Are you such
fools, you sons of Israel? Have you condemned
a daughter of Israel without examination
and learning the facts? Return to
the place of judgment. For these men
have borne false witness against her.”
And so they returned to the scene of the crime,
to the pool in the garden of Joakim, honored
Jew of Babylon, where Daniel separated
the suspects and questioned them cleverly.
“Under which tree in this garden did you see
beautiful Susanna lying with a young man?”
“Under that mastic tree,” said the first, pointing.
“Under that evergreen oak,” said the other, the same.
So the first was cut in two, as his tree was named; and
the second was sawed in half, as his tree was named,
for their false witness against The Name and Susanna.


Hosannah to justice and God who are One!
served by Susanna and Daniel who knew
those liars for what they were! As penance,
Daniel served the Lord all his days,
crying out in the streets
of the captive Jews of Babylon
for the justice of their God –
and I, Susanna, never again loved Daniel
beneath the weeping tree named for Babylon.


A native New Yorker now in RI, L. Shapley Bassen was the First Place winner in the 2015 Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest for ‘Portrait of a Giant Squid’. She is s a poetry/fiction reviewer for The Rumpus, etc., also Fiction Editor at CRAFT, prizewinning, produced, published playwright: originally at http://www.samuelfrench.com/author/1158/lois-shapley-bassen, now https://www.concordtheatricals.com/p/1563/the-month-before-the-moon ; 3x indie-published author novel/story collections, and in 2019, #4, WHAT SUITS A NUDIST, poetry collected works at https://www.claresongbirdspub.com/featured-authors/l-shapley-bassen/