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Emily Strauss

strauss 2_crop smallEmily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 450 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. She is a Best of the Net and two-time 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 retired teacher living in Oregon.


Life Complicates Itself

leaves fall in drifts
filling the ditch, flood
waters spilling down
the streets rise fast

a wren hits the window
falls stunned at the cat’s
feet, both stilled at that
moment, blinking

a titanic earthquake hits,
the mountain collapses
in avalanches, dozens
are buried, never found

the gale tears off cactus
pieces, tree limbs, a boulder
is dislodged, burying one
lizard and a rat’s nest

disease strikes a pretty
young mother, an athlete’s
son, a famous writer, the old
woman on the corner, at will

and we die slumped under
too-warm quilts, or in a wheel-
chair, randomly, one bright
summer night with roses

The Fog Lifts

Suddenly the fog lifts
and the world is busy—
waves meet the cliffs
jays scream as they launch
from high pine branches
soar across the ravine,
red-tailed hawk flies hungry.

Dew collected on the grass
all the cold morning begins
to glide down the stems
to the parched ground.
The surf is a silent white
line in the distance.

The whir of cars on the coast
road reaches up the canyon.
The sun struggles to light the cliffs,
loosen the gray fog fingers curled
in the trees where sparrows gather—

and we exhale again, as if
we’d been holding our breath
the whole closed-in night.
Now it’s time to sit outside
as the sky resolves to blue

a few clouds float by
like sheer cotton damask
under the morning light
above the pale sea,
fog like a shroud departing,
death pushed back once more.

Immortality at Midnight: Surviving Cancer

from an essay by Susan Gubar at NYT 12/21/2017

Still alive tonight
I’ve become a ghost
aware of limited time
which is expanded time.

An eerie quickening of storm
clouds, the trees toss
I’m wide awake now
though not seeking mirrors.

The moon silvers the shade
a tremulous tree limb shivers
on the window.
I roam the shadowy house

savor the animation of life
incommensurate with the dark,
the future a series of tomorrows
I can envision

at this hour because of my nerves.
I am lit with the thrill of being
anonymous in this night’s silence
my captured self now free.

Alone I study old family photos
on the wall, stare back at myself
immortal for one moment
the rightness of this moment


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