Notes on an Empty Sky

for James Fuson (20 Years Reflections of an Empty Sky, Soft Sculpture Press, 2014)

from a prison cell window
seven inches of rectangular
sometimes gray
or black, but no stars
the spotlights too glaring
once a month the setting
moon before dawn

he stares
pencil moves—tiny scratching
of the mouse’s scurrying
feet in the dead corridor
mixed with snoring
and rustling
occasionally a scream
immediately hushed

he writes haiku
the same
he writes haiku
another view of silence
inner voice dictating

he records the seasons
his yearly calendar
of leaves falling
somewhere else
new sun, hot days
not time
no clocks or bells
just alarms

there are no hours here
but the guards, food
cart, passing storms
rain beating him
on the chest
like memories of
infrequent visits
his mother gray
and stooped now
he doesn’t remember
what she looked like
there is too much time

he doesn’t wait—
for what?
a candy bar, warmth
new book
an hour to walk outside
the library
the gym
watching warily
careful of his movements
silent yet alert
more observations
on the typewriter
its old keys depressed
with more
now printed on cheap
paper, stapled, published


Emily Strauss has an MA in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 400 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the US and abroad. She is a Best of the Net nominee and twice a Pushcart nominee. The natural world of the American West is generally her framework; she also considers the narratives of people and places around her. She is a retired teacher living in Oregon.