Since 1996 Volume XXIIV

     Erica Goss

Erica Goss won the 2019 Zocalo Poetry Prize. Her collection, Night Court, won the 2017 Lyrebird Award from Glass Lyre Press. Recent publications include Spillway, A-Minor, Collateral, Slant, San Pedro River Review, and Rise Up Review. She is the founder of Girls’ Voices Matter, a filmmaking workshop for teen girls. Erica served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA, from 2013-2016. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she teaches, writes and edits the newsletter Sticks & Stones. Please visit her at www.ericagoss.com.



While You Can


Don’t be afraid

don’t look for signs.



you will arrive

just after the explosion,

waving your arms through


the light-struck dust. 

I’m the ash that coats your tongue,

makes you cough


and cough. No,

I can’t stay quiet tonight

on the street made of words.


Soon I will pass through you

like hair through a comb.

Love me while you can,


before the hot air crumbles

like sand; love me like

the black and white sky




First published in Caveat Lector, Summer/Fall 2010







warm nights I dream you back to me

out of your father’s sleeping body

you would be twenty this year daughter


once I sat in a room filled with women

the air smelled of dog fur and rain

we imagined you a face but not a name


every year it’s the same routine

I sift fresh soil for you, dig you up

and bury you, call you seed, bulb, tuber,


animal, mineral, flower, anything but daughter

the world grows hotter – April feels like August

it’s my birthday month – yours too, born


and dead the same day like the dates

on the smallest stones in the pioneer graveyard

where I stand in the sloppy rain


a stamp from Spain shows Madonna and child

affixed above the word frágil

when the sun goes down I have nothing of you


not even your ashes daughter

and though your glimmer dims each year

spring will not stop coming


and I cannot stop planting

daylily, spiderwort, morning glory

flowers that bloom for only one day


                        —First published in Spillway, 2018








I know it’s hard to love me;

crushed under cities

scraped from your shoes.


I want attention. I want

to live under fingernails

find my way into your mouth.


I give you monkey-flower, nettles,

the bay tree’s rising scent.

I understand sacrament. 


Spread a blanket over me.

I banish isolation.

Take your lover right here.


Clotted within me,

the dead are silent.

I could rouse them, but I won’t.


I lift mountains over bones.

In the green grass of the field

take your rest in me.


            —First published in The Hummingbird Review, Spring/Summer 2013




Post-Last Rites



I break the compost

from its slumber,

pierce and shift it

with my shovel.


It steams at me,

releasing scents of

last year’s rain. I pull

the pile apart, press


my hand into the living

warmth, drop chopped

stems and petals

of funeral flowers


into last year’s salads,

green beans, corn cobs,

newspaper headlines.

I work the shovel


corner to corner, move

dry edges to the center,

cover the flowers

in soft damp layers.


One month since she died.

Flies rise, shimmering,

wing-facets catching

the sun.


            —First published in The Tishman Review, October 2017







After the great rains, I faced the sea.

How it opened and closed me.

My fingers found stones.

My fingers found glass.

Small plants quivered in the corroding wind.

My child stood in the surf. A cold slurry

of water and sand dissolved beneath his feet,

faster and faster until I understood.

I pulled him up, rough in my fear. His startled shriek.

How quickly the twin holes where his legs were disappeared.


Copyright © Erica Goss.

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