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Emily Strauss

The Writer Abroad

'I'm writing again,' he announced,
'ten poems a day-- soon I'll have a hundred
and one is bound to be good'.

I wondered--what of all the churning,
furrowed brow, staring at the fog crawling
among the buildings, lights dim at dawn

sounds turned heavy and the air cooler
as his hand moves across pages of recycled
paper, his native wife asleep beside him.

This man born abroad, a misfit anywhere,
a writer he says, very cool and hands me
a poem by some unknown American.

I add it to the pile, never read them--
never tell him they're awful, never show
him my work he insists on revising badly.

The Pauses Fill Instantly

The pauses between thoughts fill instantly --
behind the silence the scenes rush in:

mountains, vistas, roads, rivers, clearings, stands
of aspen, cedar, pinyon, a boulder poised, grabens

long straight highways, blowing grassland hills
a pass with bits of snow, down the far side to a lake

blue jeweled set in green, trail climbing to the tree line
rocky scree slope white in thin air, ancient bristlecones

twisted by cold gale winds, flowers in blues and pinks
a fence sweeping away, hovering black-shouldered kite

heat waves on sheer red cliffs with cool shade below
canyon wren calling down, dark gray ranges in procession

damp redwood glens, sorrel, a foggy beach empty
but for running shore birds, sunset after rain, a full moon

over white sand, cool dawn.

They appear at once--images from my flesh
shaped by my bones, made of pauses I think around.

The Music Playing

     "Poetry is what tries to make music of what occurs in life."
         - Yves Bonnefoy

In the main square of Heraklion on Christmas afternoon
the wan sun shines on the citizens who come out to sit
and watch the children play on the carousel, while candy
vendors and balloon blowers walk among the crowds
and young ladies even now guarded by elderly aunts
wearing long dark skirts

the pale light gives little warmth so men wear their long
coarse scarves bundled under their full mustaches , they
tap to the music of an accordion in freshly-polished
shoes, nod slightly to each other, press their hair
down with their palms

while the children run around as always, begging coins
to ride the manger donkey standing tiredly at the edge
of the square, playing tag among the crowd, eating
their fill of sweets for once, honeyed dates, walnut
clusters, baklava

and their mothers gossip, wearing their holiday dresses
trimmed in black lace, ever watchful of their offspring
humming to the same music, smiling today, they went
to early mass at 5:30 AM, fulfilled their duty, now it's
family time until supper

the music of the carousel, the roving accordion player,
someone's portable radio, the donkey complaining
mingle in the sunlight with the palms and hard benches,
the balloons, empty wrappers, sticky honey, everyone
smiling this one day--the music playing.

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 a 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.

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