Two Poems by Ellen Roberts Young

What We Have Left Undone

Unable to sell his fiction, my father
turned his art to text books,
seeding grammar exercises
with humor to waken students,
amuse himself.

For my first story (I was six, it was
four lines long) he typed up two
copies with carbons, pleased
his daughter shared his joy
in crafting with words.

He who would never have accepted
an incomplete on my report card,
went suddenly, left books unwritten,
deadlines missed, his life
a work unfinished.


A Marriage

My mother was country, my father,
city. Never mind that his city was
a small town on the coast, her country
an easy drive from San Francisco.

She brought him music, savored his talk.
He spoke not of his mother’s dying
before he was twelve, but of how,
delivering papers and picking berries

for jam, he supported his aunt
during the Depression. In war time
he sent home his poker winnings.
They built a house on her family’s land.

His fire needed her earth—
he ended up scorching it. Ground
recovers, fire burns itself out:
their only water was language.


Ellen Roberts Young has two full-length collections, Made and Remade (2014) and Lost in the Greenwood (2020) as well as poems in numerous print and online journals. Her third chapbook with Finishing Line Press, Transported, came out in early 2021. She is an editor of Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders Journal, and blogs at