Erica Goss, 2015 Poet


The bright rich flavor,
the singed edge of fat.
Your teeth
know what they were made for,
your eyes focus, facing forward.
Watch how people eat it:
the lowered knife
the lifted fork, then
the dreamy look.
Wait for the burst of energy,
the power of protein.
Conversation stops, as it should.
This is the story
of soil and horizon
of hoof and broken prairie.
This is the story
of hunger, of slaughter and dust.
There are oceans of grass
and fields of water on your plate.
There is wind whistling
through bone
on your breath.



Nude Seated on a Rock by Pablo Picasso

Imagine a woman
made of bread.
Her toes
are the leftover
rolls of dough
my mother made
when we hung
around the kitchen
on baking day.
Her calves
are croissants,
with a delicate
flakey crust
and buttery air
in warm layers.
Her thighs
are loaves fresh
from the oven
hot and firm
on the outside
inside, soft
and white.
Her arms
cross over
her knees into
a braid,
brushed with
beaten egg,
the special loaf
we eat to celebrate
the renewal
of life.
Her shoulders
are heavy
rye, baked
in clay ovens,
chewy hard rind
given to pale
children who fail
to thrive.
Her breasts
are small sweet rolls
more cake
than bread,
quick from
the kitchen.
But who
can say
what yeast grows
in her head,
what rises
and bubbles
and runs
over the edge of
the bowl of
her brain?



At Thirteen I Let a Boy Shoot My Dog with a BB Gun

A little older than
me he rumbled out
a laugh in his newly
acquired man-
voice the gun a sexy
toy we barely understood
the dog yelped stumbled
breath coming fast a hard
lump rising next
to his tail his name
was Happy he did not walk
for a week he ate
my socks and chomped
lizards from the air
the boy had sly brown
eyes and a moustache-
in-training I don’t remember
his name to touch him
to place my hand below
his flat white stomach
I would have done
much worse things



Monday’s Pill

Monday’s child is fair of face. Nursery rhyme

Monday’s pill sits in my palm, harmless
as a baby’s tooth, soft
as antique linen and cold as old snow

Tuesday’s pill drops into my hand
with a gentle plop and the promise of sleep
I teeter on the edge

Wednesday’s pill stays tucked in its cell
I mangle it with my fingernail
chalky fragments stick in my throat

Thursday’s pill leaps from its blister pack
arcs through the air, rolls under the bed
where it crouches just out of reach

Friday’s pill welcomes me like a friend
we enjoy a quiet moment together
then I swallow her and start to drift

Saturday’s pill ignores me, gets down
to business, now I remember
how serious this all is

But the pill I take on the Sabbath Day
is the sun in a distant galaxy
and I, its helpless planet, rotate.



My thoughts are such small birds

This is where we met them all those years ago
the beautiful boys with their curly hair

the passions of our hands like salt, like sweat
and the music of the bees—what a little fool I was

my thoughts are such small birds today
and you, chill and courteous as always

your skin in patches like finely-cut lichens
you would avert your eyes but I force you forward

my hands grip the stone of your shoulders
and we step in to this self-absorbed place

where we return every year
our pilgrimage among the flies and paper cups

marks left in the soft grass—knees, elbows
and though the moon is new every month

nothing ever changes—once leaves popped
underfoot like gunshots

but today we wear silence like armor



Driving Barefoot with a Banana Slug

I can only imagine
its surprise equaled mine
when I depressed the clutch pedal

protective mucus
touched my skin
I questioned my habit of driving barefoot

time developed its own viscosity
the banana slug
a mollusk with a toothy foot

flows, boneless, along the forest floor
attracting a mate
with pheromone-laced

that same oily residue
tucked into the arch

of my foot
I drove on, caught in the gunk
of love and damage

the slug warming against me
its delicate lung crushed
between my foot and the clutch

finally I pulled over
soft yellow lump
I pried it loose

and though I scrubbed and scrubbed
the slime on the car mat
stayed for months



Remember Three Words

Apple, penny, table. I’ve lost
the right lens from my glasses.
Draw a house. We lived across
the street from the library.
I got my library card when
I was five. What time is it?
I could check out as many
books as I wanted. And
God knows I wanted. More
than I could carry.
What month is it? I crossed
the street, holding hands
with my sister. Came home
after two years at Holy Names.
Got married at nineteen.
Count aloud backwards
from 20 to 1. Two teenagers
and a baby in diapers. Jim
Beam was my best friend.
Burned all of my diaries.
Say the months of the year
in reverse order. A twelve-
year-old boy killed my brother.
He was nineteen. My mother
told the killer’s mother: we both
lost a son today. How is
your mood today? Of course
my sister is already out
of the hospital. She always
has to be first. Draw a clock
at 11:05. In other words,
the people in here have
no class. No, I don’t want
any water. In other words,
you don’t have to shout.
Do you remember the
three words? Better, worse,
the same.


Erica Goss is the Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA. She is the author of Wild Place (Finishing Line Press 2012) and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets (PushPen Press 2014). Her poems, reviews and articles appear widely, both on-line and in print. She won the 2011 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Contest and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2010 and 2013. She writes The Third Form, a column about video poetry, for Connotation Press. Please visit her at:

What's your take on this?