Be(longing) by Nancy Kassell


Our core, our humanity, finds expression in language. That core is linked by a genetic thread to other living beings. It is linked to a human past that is personal, social, and universal. These reflections and relationships are counterpoint to a moment of beauty, or perhaps horror (Red surge of war news: rubble / bodies fragile, fragility understood and denied, “Heart Valves”).

The poems in Be(longing) explore being, desire, and context. Belonging: set in a right or rightful place, but / originally, go along with, “Nomad”. There are poems in this collection about keeping company with the dead and dying, with past selves, and with essential presences, like a grown daughter, two elements bordering like states of being. // Crossing over. How to negotiate and adapt, girl to woman to mother, “San Francisco Coastline”.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 50
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: October, 2016
  • ISBN: 978-1-939929-65-5


from ancient Greek nostos, homecoming, and
algos, pain
Pain of loss, loss of the place you call home. Perhaps
Abandoned as life moved forward, so that only
Now do you realize what you miss,
How much you still love it.

Can you travel back to it, and is it traveling back,
Not to some place or thing you longed for but
Never had or could have? Will the trip
Require risk and effort, as

Odysseus’ homecoming did? He suffered, persisted, arrived, and
Proved his identity (the immoveable olivewood marriage bed).
He belonged to this family, this palace, the dog Argos.

Particular, intimate. It may even be pain, a subterranean place
You can’t escape or make yourself leave, throbbing scar
On the thigh gored by a boar’s tusk.

Impulse to sea lane, its familiar port; dirt road to a meadow’s
Wild strawberries, long grass, primroses, humming
Insects. Will it be as you remember, or an image
Worn smooth as sea glass?

Yet the orchard thrives.
Someone has tended it in your absence.


Nancy KassellText(isles), Nancy Kassell’s first book of poetry, was published by Dos Madres Press in 2013. Her poems have been published in several anthologies, including Speaking for my Self. Women poets in their seventies and eighties and Verse and Universe. Poems about Science and Mathematics, and in literary journals (Notre Dame Review, BORDERLANDS, Eclipse, Willow Spring, Salamander, and others).

Her translation of “Non omnis moriar” by Zuzanna Ginczanka (from the Polish, with Anita Safran), the first English translation of this poem, appeared on AGNIOnline and will be published in the Posen Foundation’s 2017 volume of the “Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization.” An essay, “Almost Not,” included in this chapbook, was published on the blog of the journal AGNI this year. Her essays were also included in The Road Retaken. Women Rediscover Academe; When a Lifemate Dies; and in the New York Times. Kassell was a founding member of The Writers’ Room of Boston.

In a previous life, Kassell taught Greek and Latin languages and literatures at the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, and UMass-Boston and published articles on Horace and Ovid. She is also the author of a feminist cultural study, The Pythia on Ellis Island. Rethinking the Greco-Roman Legacy in America. She lives in Brookline, MA.

Additional information

Weight 4 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in