Thursday, May 30, 2013

Three Poems by Emily Strauss

One Hundredth Meridian
Where the West begins:
mountain slope frontier
where the tall grasses end,
the first rise of red maples
after the treeless death plains
they walked through for
months losing cows and
children, the old and weak
and inland there is no beginning
or end
there is only light, dust and red
rock in endless mazes
invisible rivers below,
wooden fences wavering
into a heat-warped distance
the center of the West
doesn't know its boundaries--
cold deep waters
      warm shallow seas
                  the small creeks draining
                  the bluffs eastward.
Where the West ends:
at the ocean's lip scattered
with driftwood, sheer cliffs
brooks alkaline from the redwoods'
roots hiding under sword ferns
and alders in the dim mists,
sea stacks and natural bridges
elephant seals sleeping
in a bright sun, dried kelp
before a deep canyon in the bay,
harbors facing only toward sunset
the sand reflecting a setting moon
leading off the edge of the earth.
Redwood Summer
We climb from the ridge
over 1600 feet down
into the redwood canyon
to the stream still flowing
in late summer
down to the cool ferns, the last
columbines and larkspurs
beside the pools in deep shade
through the mid-day glare,
heat eddies redolent of native
square-stemmed mint, past
Pearly Everlasting like warm
honey swirling around our feet
then back up
laboring as we transcend
the same redwoods
back into the sun, marching
slowly past dusty oaks now
spider webs caught among dry
leaves, sweating, breathing
carefully, sips of tepid water
not counting the steps, dirt
lifting at each foot fall, we
ignore everything now, just
The Wind Hits
The wind hits in tight fists
like a boxer, circling, quiet
then suddenly striking from
the north, now the east
it fools me when I set a cup
down, unfold a chair
it doesn't like cups--
that's in the bush--
or chairs-- that's knocked
flat, or dish towels drying
or wash basins-- the soapy
water flies into my lap.
If I were more patient
I could out-wit the wind
dodge its icy punches
eat warm food, watch
the full moon rise over
the dark desert. Instead
I retreat, let the gusts bow
my tent like an accordion
a cold bellows, not for fire
but a sub-zero night.
I wear four layers to sleep
and hope for daylight.
Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry. Over 100 of her poems appear in dozens of online venues and in anthologies. The natural world is generally her framework; she often focuses on the tension between nature and humanity, using concrete images to illuminate the loss of meaning between them. She is a semi-retired teacher living in California.

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