no sympathy

The knee I should have had
replaced tells me to suck it up
as I stagger over cobblestones
that mock me with taunts
about stronger men than me
they’ve taken down:
medieval giants, their joints
ground down to bone meal –
left aching, no sympathy,
no painkiller except for drink
and then death to relieve them
of the persistence of doubt

©Daniel von der Embse

familiar strangers


Homeless and hungry
the old man sits on a median strip
wide brim hat and gloves
in the hot sun,
scribbling furiously
as the world drives past

Acknowledging one another
we are familiar strangers
bound together by words
taken down exactly
as they are spoken to us
by the voices in our heads

©Daniel von der Embse

photograph of my father, Africa, 1943

You sit there
saying with your eyes
things I never heard
when you were here –
this is the only photograph
I keep of you

In this moment
you are always twenty-four
daring with a cigarette
balancing from your mouth
and a .45 in your hand

Is that a dead body
at your feet?
Did you kill him?
Did he try to kill you?
I forgot to ask you
before you left

Next to you, your lieutenant,
the man for whom I am named,
is saying something,
funny perhaps,
to take your minds away
from the killing work
you did today

©Daniel von der Embse

hidden in your smile

Your smile likes hiding things,
sweetly held deceptions
kept perfectly out of sight

In the corner of your mouth I sit
and watch you work:
the baby pout is all you need

to feed and clothe yourself,
then to rebuff the flattery
of one who might assume

they could own you,
a woman in full possession
of herself, needing nothing more

©Daniel von der embse