Amy Strauss Friedman

As I Try to Contend with the Mother Who’s Lost to Me
He hands me a teaspoon
and instructs me to dig a hole
the way bunnies burrow,
a shallow shell to hide in
until birds appear, their roof-tile
feathers of interlocking proteins
flapping to signal the storm has passed.
Fancy degrees paper his walls
in a high rent district
where he slips me a pill,
the sanctioned swallow
of a one karat jewel
sandwiched in the ocean of my hand.
A muddy avalanche packed
in a tablet of false hope.
He wonders what to do with a grown girl
who’s knotty childhood tree’s
grown sidewise into a displaced
chain link fence. A downed power wire
yawning a hole into a concrete street.
Mud plugging everything.
Windows rendered functionless.
Bathtubs rusted milky with toxic water.
“Everything is runoff,” he reminds me,
timid and knowing.
“All civilizations crumble, eventually.”

The Thing About Eating Poison
A gauntlet, you called it,
and I suppose you were right.
An ultimatum by email
growing staler by the minute,
and I’ve never known how to arrest
the heartbeat of your need.
The story begins with the human
body and it’s almost absurd capacity
for arsenic. Of the wife who poisoned
her husband’s food for years,
his health teetering, but alive nonetheless.
Not just his body, but his mind,
a glass resting precariously
on the table’s edge of sanity.
She had a new lover and so
needed the old one discarded.
But he hung on the way spider webs
cling to piles of lumber
that before the tornado were houses.
Cling. A word of outsized desperation
too often mistaken for love.
Secrets are universes all their own,
with stars so like ours that anyone
could mistake them for the real thing.
Could wish on them and believe
those balls of fire might hold everything we want.
That gravity is not just us unwittingly
holding tight to all we own.

A Cow Who’s Outlived Her Purpose Spends Her Days Detesting Grass
And the blank page staggers unmoored,
and the always undone cries under the stairs.
It’s the absence of risk and not its opposite
that grates us down to nubs, leaving only
stumps, useless even for soup.

Amy Strauss Friedman is the author of the poetry collection The Eggshell Skull Rule, forthcoming in 2018 from Kelsay Books, and the chapbook Gathered Bones are Known to Wander (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2016). A two-time Best of the Net nominee, her poems have appeared in The Rumpus, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Escape Into Life, Red Paint Hill, Decomp, and elsewhere. Amy teaches English at Columbia College in Denver, CO. Her work can be found at