Secret death of birds

The birds of earth are called
to die in secret ritual
high, high above upon rooftops unseen

their wings’ last heaving, landing a silent perch
cooing in faint gurgle, eyes gently closing,
heads pulled inward,

their bodies then transformed
to dust by God –
never seen, never recorded

leaving us with nothing
to prove the secret of their deaths
only the fresh new flocks
that must return to earth each year


This poem was first published in Harpoon Review, December 2014.


©Daniel von der Embse


She says
you come into this world alone
you leave this world alone

And I think, no, my mother,
she was there
but then she was gone
before I could remember
how it felt to be loved

We leave this world
it doesn’t matter who
is there

We leave them
to remember how it feels
to have been loved



This poem was first published in After The Pause, December 2014

The rescue

In the morning, daylight,
the shrill whimper of a coyote
way off somewhere

In his voice, fear,
the cry for help carried
from the distant hills

The sharp bark of dogs, syncopates
his wailing, afraid, surrounded
out of reach of his brothers

I am mesmerized by the voices
and listen with all my hearing
for how the end comes

In that moment, a rescue
by his fellows, running off, free –
the scenario I choose,
the better to imagine myself



This poem was first published in Across The Margin, October 2014.

Solitary heart

In our wedding pictures,
the scar above my lip
foretells of the battle of wills,
the constant sparring,
that ultimately tore us apart
On our last day of fighting
I hold your fist in my hand,
able no longer to be happy
and in your company,
carrying this solitary heart
to where it can rest,
never again to feel so alone
as when we were together


This poem appeared in Penny Ante Feud, December 2014.


©Danielvon der Embse

A prayer before resting

Before bed you asked
me to read you
the Lord’s Prayer

a strange request
unsettling to me
in my exhaustion

Laying you to rest
I pray it now
remembering you –

a video flickering,
streaks barely visible
in the light

shadow beings
chasing us
back to when

we could see
it all, everything
in the dark



The poem was first published in Across The Margin, October 2014.



©Daniel von der Embse

The mess we left

What can we tell
from these pictures on walls,
jars filled with glass candies wrapped
in paper that cuts?

What do we know of them
who left their secrets here
in plain sight of passersby?
The water-stained wall
the empty picture hook
the drawer full of broken glass

Listen and you can hear
the uneasiness of a life never quite
cleaned up or put away
asking only for quiet,
a place to be left alone

Perhaps if we sit and wait
these walls will spill open
to explain the sudden change

For now let us stop
and sit with
the mess we left
and contemplate ourselves
reflected back at us
in a broken mirror


This poem was first published in The WovenTale Press, June 2014.


©Daniel von der Embse

Upon ancient tiles

Walk with me along the rooftops
upon ancient tiles crumbling beneath us
as fragile as we are
We return to this place each year to witness
the gradual decay
and to carry home the antique mess
now turned to dust in our pockets
an unintended souvenir of the life we share



This poem was first published in Poetry Quarterly, Summer, 2014.



©Daniel von der Embse


We lie in bed and wonder
will it ever be safe
to dream again
And what would we dream of
when there is no love left
to hold us together,

only false memories
shot full of holes
with no thread of hope
that we might wake up
in a better place
anywhere but here

The lies I told
soak deep into your skin
leaving a stain that remains—
a permanent mark
carried into old age
never to be worn away

This poem was first published in Decanto, December 2014.


©Daniel von der Embse


The past visits as a nightmare
replaying the sickness I gave you
that infects us both now
recounting our regrets
throughout long nights
waiting to wake up

In the daylight
the images get covered over
ready to be dug up again
like cold hard earth
heaped upon the bed
for another night

In the dark
I see you next to me
and in your clenched jaw
I see how the constant retelling
has changed the way you sleep

You barely move
but for your quaking shoulders
that betray the disruption
beneath your skin



This poem was first published in Veil, The Journal of Darker Musings, October, 2014.


©Daniel von der Embse

As I lie in the vineyard ground (updated poem)

I’ve posted this poem before, however I recently went back to it, filling it to become a more complete poem. This is the result.

As I lie in the vineyard ground

The Umbrian sky opens upon me
like a scented cloth
laying a moment’s soothing
around my broken body.
Lost and out of breath I awaken
here in the vineyard ground
to a smell so pungent it penetrates the skin
leaving the taste of yeast in my mouth
though nothing has been drunk.
Never wanting to leave
these bones of mine dissolve
into the red clay earth,
a drink for the wine grapes
to enjoy on me.




©Daniel von der Embse