Poetry: Written on this Land by Emily Strauss
With subtle luxury of sound, Emily Strauss writes of the desert, the West. Couplets hide the harmony crafted line by line until that final hard rhyme, shining like a jewel. Strauss understates her language as “dry and austere,” “barren”—but the “alluvial washes pour” upon the reader, and the water is sweet to taste.
Written on this Land
I am written on this land, desert
imprinted in me, this dry and austere
interior a mirror of vast beige rises.
Or I am the desert, with little birds hidden
and muted, dry skin like a smooth snake
warming under a rock in spring.
I am barren, folded, wind-blown,
prickly as cholla bits scattered on the path.
Step with care, danger is everywhere,
reach gingerly, expect sharp edges, rocky
slopes above broad alluvial washes
pouring down— I too pour suddenly
in monsoon, channels filled, boulders
dislodged, just as fast it ends, sand dries.
I bloom and fade in a week, pocket mice
sip from tiny pools and are hidden again
faint tracks seen at dawn erased by noon
tell of nightly affairs under the moon.
Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 400 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 twice a Pushcart nominee. The natural world of the American West is generally her framework; here she considers the narratives of people and places around her. She is a retired teacher living in Oregon.