The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Paula Friedman



                                    for Eric           


Each twilit summer, I practiced

conjuring fireflies. Conspicuously lit,

those bluish-orange shots of brightness complied--

rising and falling like breath.


But these years in the foothills,

far from town, they do not arrive.

Instead, blacker skies shine

and glitter with star holes.


Some nights I catch sight of a falling,  

or fizzling star, and though the skies look vaguely

unchanged, I become aware of an absence.


Whatever snuffs fireflies’ cold fire

or makes cold stars burn out

might let any one of us disappear, 

without warning or ceremony.


Like you, old friend, father of our children,

whose strain of cancer spun a mean silk 

unseen for months, until a slow-healing bone lit 

radiant, skeletal webbing on screen--


Though full grown, the kids had barely begun

dueling with facts before your body whittled down

in wild double time, as though racing


to a new world.  Just like that,

the globe rolls, stars exhaust themselves, cells

split, and then something, or someone finishes.

Just like that. You were finished.



Paula Friedman

Another Season


The monkey flowers have begun to bloom;

the river’s settled down these last couple weeks.

I can see my own feet resting on the pebbled

river bottom, the detail near impeccable, light

glowing down to my toes, reflecting back 

their pink shininess.  Each time I surface

from the day’s first ripping chill, I drink in

the blue skies, the river shaped by jagged granite

formations with smooth white boulders rising

from its waters like the top halves of whales--

motionless, but no less imposing--   


Last month there was early May snow-melt

the crazy cold of it, stirring up chaotic currents.

that failed to hold back the few swimmers;

(each year there’s usually three) that cannot wait,

plunging in to find themselves slammed forward

and back, snagged by rocks. While today’s poor

drowned soul was having his limbs disentangled,

a voice shrilled down from the crowd like an

old school god, or some slick street hawker:

just one more body folks, and the river

is all yours for another season.




PAULA FRIEDMAN's poems and reviews have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Michigan Quarterly Review, The Columbia Journal of Art and Literature, The Georgia Review, The Comstock Review, The New Criterion, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and many other national publications. Born in Chicago, Friedman has spent most of her life in various parts of California. She Now resides in Grass Valley, a semi-rural small town in northeastern California. 


Previous | Next