I appreciate the lawlessness of a lively summer evening,
when barbecue smoke chars the air, and the sinking sun
inspires bored dads and tired moms to break the yoke
of suburban diligence with coolers of cold beer and pink wine.
Streets grow fat with the long shadows of small children,
and my blood itches beneath the generous folds of my skin.
The knock of this benevolent heart shakes its thin-boned cage.

The world is no place for animals with milk teeth,
for soft bones and the wide-mouthed yawn of sucklings.
They call to me, unguarded, from trees too tall to descend,
tongues wagging for the relief of cherry popsicles,
dangling legs begging to be pushed on swings, higher,         higher.

I will find one, I’m sure, wordless and desperate,
sitting in the cool shadow of a maple tree,
its careless mother snoring softly in the dying sun,
her whip-thin body stretched shamelessly
over the pale blue sky of a picnic blanket.
It’ll stink of syrup and dirty sidewalk, a girl-thing
with colorless hair, sucking on a handful of grass,
nails grown too long, but not nearly long enough.


A Daughter’s Perspective

It was the smoke of our tinderbox
history that slid you towards me,
arms limp like someone
who had already given up,
lifting your head crying softly,
because you didn’t remember
it like that, didn’t remember
waking me with bloodied fingers:
…                 look what he did to me.

But you were sorry anyway,
eyes bright with tears, still
whispering a plea something feather-like

and soft. The blue-veined marble
of your rage, your hands an impression
in relief, rising from my childhood
as a sculpture cut from stone and bone,

now dust. Because the words I’m sorry
were foreign objects in your mouth,
and the atmosphere cracked and splintered,
like glass interrupted by fists, your face sparkling
with the expectation of forgiveness,
and I said, I don’t believe you,
and you exhaled the stone of your heart,
a smooth rock upon my tongue.


Considering Mom’s Rings

Mom’s gold rings swing
from the delicately pointed
leg of a wrought iron fairy
who has found her home
in the sun puddle of my
bedroom windowsill.

Four dull bands born
to babies now grown –
tanzanite and peridot,
topaz and garnet –
dimpled and dented.

Too small, I think, impossible
to slip over fingers not dipped
in Sunday oil, and I’m afraid
I’m beginning to forget
the density of her hands,
the seashell pink of nail beds
left unpainted,  the curved
shape of her motherhood.

Please tell me how to grieve
with the glassy-eyed faith
of women who whisper dusty
prayers to faceless saints,
who wash their memories
in the ritual of order and wax,
who give it to God.

Show me how to live with only
the ghost of her fingerprints
burned into a well-seasoned skillet
instead of this animal-fury,
this starlight bright and empty
country of my life without her.


Gina Stratos is a writer originally from San Francisco, now living with her family in northern Nevada. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The MeadowDoor Is A Jar, and Dark River Review. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry.