Emily Strauss

Margins

I love the edges where something fades
to another state— a parking lot becomes
a field, plowed or derelict with bits of trash
under dead weeds, empty cups and wrappers

mark where the city ends and the rest
begins, the last landscape plants wilt
beyond the sprinklers before the alfalfa
or potatoes start, now we're in the country—

on that side cement, asphalt, street lights
over here dirt clods in my shoe, transition
from tamed to wild, step off the road cut
through the hills, enter an inter-tidal zone

the sand alternately wet and dry like dusk,
neither night or day, another transition
of light, bleeding into another form,
un-static, changeable like the faded desert

suddenly irrigated, green stalks that pain
beside pale sages, the oats grown in a circle
and outside its border, along the margin,
we step from drought to lush in one motion

and back, so simple to thread the limits

Earthquake Weather

on the backbone of the earthquake
swollen knots of hills steep and
barren but for invasive weeds
stunted chaparral in this dissipating
season, the ridges lie still as pain,
its old spine rigid and inflamed,
all movements tear at the nerves—
better quiet, resting in the afternoon

the golden eagle with her white
wing patches floats above
out of place in the suburbs,
drought brought her here
the far ranges emptying their deer
wild turkeys, even rabbits dying—
so she patrols the freeways
spots a crushed raccoon, hovers

and the ground stays fallow
earthquakes far off now
this the wrong weather
air holds the fog offshore
dead leaves gather with old bones
and fur, a lost feather cast down
in spring blows at the roadside
with scattered paper

the vertebrae frozen, eagles overhead
watch the dry humped earth
shadows cast in the draws
mice scurrying, nude figure
of the hills prostrate in the heat
the falling sun stirs the dust
that settles on its naked skin
quake waiting to shift its weight

Howling Desert

in a howling desert
winter storm sparrows
cower under the cholla
while pieces of spiny
arms tear off and fly
like spears into the barrels
of beavertail and saguaro
small rats huddle in dens
deep under the sandy wash
the artemisia stripped
of tiny dry leaves, whole
branches snapped, thistles
like giant bowling balls
roll, stumble, collect
at fences, piled in huge
clumps, the wind tears at
fur, feathers, scales, ears,
sinews, veins, views
the land shredded, raked
skinned alive—

I huddle, salt water
torn from my eyes
grit collecting
between my clenched
teeth, cheeks burnished
raw like some wastrel
kitten left mewling
trying to survive to dawn

Author Portrait

Emily Strauss has an MA in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 300 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. The natural world is generally her framework; she also considers the stories of people and places around her. She is a semi-retired teacher living in California.