The names of the dead—
etched on a slab of wood
no family, all drowned
at sea, a lone imam
chants 'forgive us our sins'
the tide washing up
more broken bodies
bloated in the surf
and workers dig
more graves on the coast
no one comes to claim
the bodies: 42454
in freezing waters
hours uncounted before
the coast guard comes
sweeping up the living
and dead, infants later
bathed and shrouded
taken for burial
assigned a number: 42455
Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 350 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. She is both a Best of the Net and Pushcart nominee. The natural world of the American West is generally her framework; she also considers the narratives of people and places around her. She is a semi-retired teacher living in California.
When he had finished writing, and crossing out
and standing and rewriting, and looking
out his window, and feeling the sun
I stood and watched you sleeping, had
stood there watching for nearly five minutes in
the shadow of the
hallway for nearly five minutes of circus
time before I dropped your purse on the chair, quiet as death
If I could, I’d use
my recently purchased cell phone
to call the pay phone outside
the community swimming pool
in Fairview Park, Normal, Illinois,
that summer when I was eleven,
and the country 200.
It was the night we were told we couldn’t pretend we were Catholic.
The priest turned only toward you and said, “It’s between you and God.”
And you cried.
I dream of her,
childish and illogical,
straight hair and tiger-eyes.
My punk-rock gothic-pixie little sister fourteen fresh faced
We listened to The Cure during art class Made bongs and pipes
out of ceramic You taught me how to kiss people who could
never love me
Supermassive Black Hole swallowed your cackle-low
Cosmos whisper pretty Come here darling and you come
I hope I never forget that pack of middle-schoolers
at the playground near my house, how they acted
like middle-schoolers, shouting their conversations
across the neighborhood as if showing off new sneakers,
the boys doing mean things to the girls,
the girls saying mean things about each other.
head, right arm
behind the back, fingers
curled around the left arm’s inner
We all live on the Hudson, America’s only true river. It’s
a driveway, a landing strip, and a dead end. The Hudson is not the only river
to become a school, but it is the only one once beheld by the likes of George
Washington, Melville, and Sir Winston Churchill.