Amy Strauss Friedman

Sue McNally


Even Retail Therapy is a Prayer 

“If God wasn’t invented for a time like this, then why invent him at all?”
– Essie Masters in
Masters of Sex 

Every life is a Beckett play
clawing toward a Cassavetes film. 
Our ceilings are made of mud.
Digging leads to digging
leads to burial. Just read the New York Times.
There is no safety inside the bomb shelter.

Chopin feared being buried alive.
Believed air, not sound, his god.
Today he’d have a Tesla in his driveway,
scream his genius into pillows,
read his monthly retirement statements as obituaries.

You beg for struggle in a world
begging for mercy, which makes perfect sense.
Your god is the cigarette
after a hurricane of teeth and tongue.
Mine floods the bloodstream with benzodiazepines.
Zen always exacts its price.

That’s why we invented doctors.
Someone with the antibiotic, the antibody,
the antidote to the toxin.
Choose a spot to avoid.
Carve a macular hole in our implacable sky

thrumming shades of slippery silver cowardice
above the horizon, endlessly dying.
A hint of calamity we deliberately mistake for grace.
A moratorium after the grind.
A heaven we can almost count on.


Splintered Objects Resist Classification

My heart’s a movable city, transplanted.
Mother uprooted it often. Watered it bloody.
Traced its cracks with twigs,
mapped it to a tree split by lightning.
A rivulet run dry.

So name me where I lie.
Stitch me like a soldier
to the land I protect.
Love me like tumbled glass
worn by oceans I’ll never travel.

Swallow me like an incurable habit.

Plant me by a window half shaded in doubt/
half lit by the taste of growling beauty
in all its precise delusion.

Somewhere a dusty museum holds a shelf
I’m meant to crouch on,
to cradle my ancient ruins for future study.


The Way Haunted is Overused

The drywall calls attention to itself,
swells pregnant, the pipe unearths
through paper and paint,
birthing a lurking disorder.
The once unseen, malignant valve
spikes through our buttery spines,
cocks the trigger at our heads.

We pretended not to notice the protruding clavicle,
instead tracing the sultry dip
and ignoring the silt, seeking the caged child
steeped in the syndrome’s downpour.
We looked for lovely in a kerosene field of
windpipe matches, the way a smell can linger
so long, it’s the only air you know.

So when skin began shedding pernicious cells
across our wood floors like dust, we swept up.
Fixed on hangnails and dryer lint. Answered emails.
Cooked dinners with a starch, a vegetable, a protein.

There are words other than denial
for problems permitted to smolder unchecked:
Neglect. Bliss. Surrender.
A thirsty tree believes it will see tomorrow.
That rain will come in time.


doorway (n.) – the passage or opening into a building or a room

my teeth don’t fit together;
they’ve shifted in the tectonic dislocation of yesterday’s vows.

our bedroom becomes unfamiliar.
i’ve been here before under the tarp of a former memory.
concrete posts with metal chains flank the threshold,
leading down the lush garden path you’ve cultivated from grit.
here, peonies grow in unrooted soil.

come in, you whisper, as you sit on a floating bench
inside the gazebo shaded by the back bedroom wall.

my foot boils as it crosses the entrance.
blood vaporizes from atmospheric pressure.
the body surrenders limply to steam.

the heat cannot be modulated, you say,
nor can it escape. but you’ll get used to it.
pretty soon you won’t know how to survive in another climate.
just don’t eat the mushrooms.

poison often masks itself as desire.

amy-friedman-author-photoAmy Strauss Friedman is the author of the chapbook Gathered Bones are Known to Wander (Red Bird, 2016). She is a regular contributor to the newspaper Newcity and a staff writer for Yellow Chair Review. Amy’s reviews have also been published in The Rumpus and Hermeneutic Chaos. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Pittsburgh Poetry ReviewKentucky ReviewdecomPRed Paint HillLunch Ticket, et al. Amy earned her MA in Comparative Literature from Northwestern University. 

Amy Strauss Friedman’s Website 

Amy Strauss Friedman at Red Bird Chapbooks 

Amy Strauss Friedman at Poets & Writers 

Amy Strauss Friedman Interview 

Amy Strauss Friedman at Newcity Lit

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