Emily Strauss



Even Worse

Even Worse
No, each day is not the same here—
there is news, a fire rises to the crest
the steep dry hills glow for weeks
black smoke thicker than fog
ant-small men climb, dig, chop
fire breaks, a futile gesture
after years of drought and elegant
homes destroyed.

Every day is not the same—it’s worse
as the heat builds, grasses wilt and die
trees fade swaying lower to the baking
dirt and nights light up
with spidery threads of electric storms

No, it’s even worse than that—
the house is fully surrounded and they
yell, ‘get out now!‘, and you pick up
the dog and a framed photo and dash
through a wall of fire, leave the cat
lost in the brush, the air black now
headlights on at noon, snake down
the hill in a solid line of cars
police lights revolving, hands
shaking on the wheel, looking
back at the red horizon.

And later at the shelter in Franklin
Junior High’s gym, you try to call
but the lines are blocked, the dog
barfed on the back seat, cowering
now under a cot. Fanning your soot-
streaked face you wonder
if the dryer went off, if last week’s
taped game melted away, should you
buy a fire extinguisher—no
each day is not the same.



Looking for Aliens

Unless the probability for evolving a civilization on a habitable-zone planet is less than one in 10 billion trillion, then we are not the first… the degree of pessimism required to doubt the existence, at some point in time, of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization borders on the irrational.
June 10, 2016, NYT


We still remain pessimistic
doubting all but our own kind,
this planet we take for granted,
life we are lords over, this blue
light of sky and sea, green-
filtered under ferns dappled
on redwood roots a thousand
years old we ignore completely.

We once gazed up at dim lights
we knew were affixed securely
to a bowl of godly firmament
wheeling overhead, the sun
a chariot and the moon in its
own dim cart, the Milky Way
just the edge of our spiral
galaxy, all defined in our image

We now calculate all the stars
by the trillions and exo-planets
the same, technological societies
the same, and we are not alone—
we have never been, chaperoned
by unreachable entities, laws,
movements, histories, visions—
we may endure a few millennia.


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; she also considers the narratives of people and places around her. She is a retired teacher living in Klamath Falls, Oregon.