Three Poems by Erica Goss


I’ve been drawing you since I was a child.
I still have my pictures of you, crayoned
in green and brown. I know you

from dreams, from past lives.
I tell you private things:
I live in the human world. I tend

to the living and the dead.
May I touch you? Your bark
digs a road into my palm. Gold

pollen glitters on my arms.
The grass shies away from your
roots, stretched across the soil

like a dancer’s thighs. Do you remember
the first time you danced? You twirled,
a tiny seed-helicopter headed earthward.

The journey of a lifetime: yours, to grow
in one place; mine, to wander until
I found you, alone of all trees.


Raw Material

As I turn my compost pile
I think of how my mother looked
at anything unfinished on my plate.
I wish that I could send food back in time,
back to 1945 when hunger broke her down.
But everything moves forward, and
we all break down eventually:
first the flash of heat, then
the slow decomposition.



Already, we talk
as if it happened
to someone else, as if

we were children again,
in a perpetual state of
bewilderment, our youth

a shield against too much
knowing. When I was twelve,
the new dark age just a dust

cloud on the horizon,
I could not grasp the meaning
in the shift of the clouds,

nor the air’s brutal tang.
Had I known, what would
I have done? Today the rain

falls, and the trees droop
like a troupe of worn-out
performers after a final show,

bowing as the director
calls their names: red maple,
yellow birch, liquidambar.


Erica Goss is the winner of the 2019 Zocalo Poetry Prize. Her poetry collection, Night Court, won the 2017 Lyrebird Award from Glass Lyre Press. Her flash essay, “Just a Big Cat,” was one of Creative Nonfiction’s top-read stories for 2021. Recent and upcoming publications include Oregon Humanities, Creative Nonfiction, North Dakota Quarterly, Spillway, A-Minor, Redactions, Consequence, The Sunlight Press, The Pedestal, San Pedro River Review, and Critical Read. Erica served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, California, from 2013-2016. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she teaches, writes and edits the newsletter Sticks & Stones.

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