summer cabin

goat horns, yunnan©papa osmubal

goat horns, yunnan©papa osmubal

summer cabin

emily strauss

Dry clock ticking in the empty hall
Rattles like old bones, a dull dusty
Beat like the clicking of false teeth

In a withered crone sitting
At her window watching
Magpies in the garden.

Clock heart sounds hollow
Its pinewood box a casket
The body shrouded in silk
Wheels spin imperceptibly

Still alive but comatose
Faint pulse all that’s left
In the silent house closed
For winter. Snow gathers.

The rooms echo lingering time
Hours stop finally as the chain
Drops heavily, carpet absorbing
Its last fall, now quiet the clock
Waits, paused between midnight
And spring as snow seals the door
Until the first ruffled crows return.

first appeared in Your Daily Poem


on the train to chengdu

a river in li jiang, yunnan province, china©papa osmubal

a river in li jiang, yunnan province, china©papa osmubal

on the train to chengdu
emily strauss

early morning a thousand miles
away fast train runs all night
through dry flat countryside
yellow fields, tall millet stalks
wave in neat fields, red brick
farmhouses maybe one light
on quiet scenes we rush past
no stops, land changes while
we sleep, at first light we are
all different, air cool and still
on the way to Sichuan.

the water is left behind finally
all the canals, rivers, channels
garden ponds, pools, long-leaf
green tea, tall white farm houses
with upturned roofs, the bustle
of progress, industry, friends
who laugh and cry, hands that
warm, seek, comfort, air that feels
of the sea, cities too big to hold—
for the dry west, another city of tea
houses and mahjong, bicycles,
farmers at work by 6 AM in fields
lined with tall trees, distant outline
of blue mountains in morning haze
telling the rising plateau, the coming
massif of Central Asia while peasants
gather sheaves of grain, white goats
feed, lotus appears in brown mud
the land speaks its own tongue.

round grave mounds cluster like
hillocks in grassy plots surrounded
by gold fields, each one crowned
with a large stone marker chiseled
with calligraphy, subtle art, ignored
mostly until the time comes
funeral procession walks slowly
white robed figures behind saffron
monks chanting, old women weep
young men solemn for once carry
wreaths of paper flowers on wire
stands, the fresh grave soon circled
with color in the drab field of chaff.

first appeared in Terracotta Typewriter

mosque in macao

macau cemetery©papa osmubal

macau cemetery©papa osmubal

mosque in macao
emily strauss

The Musselman cemetery
Is tucked under the cliff,
Draped in broad-leafed vines
And overhanging mimosas
Each grave crowned by
A crescent moon and a star
In cement, fresh flowers
Scattered in cracked vases.
The mosque sits forgotten
Above the sea in this Chinese
Buddhist-Catholic city
Of billowing incense, smoke
Rising from temple courtyards,
Lost among tropical foliage
Across the world from dry
Desert stone, far from home.

afternoon shower

shadow ©papa osmubal

shadow ©papa osmubal

afternoon shower
emily strauss

Far-off fishing junks like giant water bugs
squat helpless under the afternoon torrent
in a line off-shore, small black carapaces
mar the glistening sea pocked by fat
drops, thunder rolls past, the air is smoky
with the falling squalls, a curtain against
the ocean and shoppers in the street below
dash for an overhanging balcony
women clutching their purses overhead
but nothing is dry, they shake one sleeve
waiting until the monsoon lightens.

Finally the rain has stopped, the air no longer
liquid, the black water bug junks still cower
in a row, every roof drips its excess. I breathe
again slowly.

emily strauss


Emily Strauss currently teaches English in Macao and has lived in or near China mostly since 1999. She travels when she can, cooks when she can’t, writes in the middle. Her writing is always image-based, snapshots of the world and sometimes of her heart.