Lauren Scharhag: Poetry (Western Voices 2021)

Bio: Lauren Scharhag (she/her) is an associate editor for GLEAM: Journal of the Cadralor, and the author of thirteen books, including Requiem for a Robot Dog (Cajun Mutt Press) and Languages, First and Last (Cyberwit Press). Her work has appeared in over 150 literary venues around the world. Recent honors include the Seamus Burns Creative Writing Prize and multiple Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations. She lives in Kansas City, MO. To learn more about her work, visit:



Trap, Neuter, Release


Kitten season and volunteers

scour abandoned lots and alleyways,

get hot tips on hoarders,

armed with traps and bits of food

they lure out ferals, confronting

fleas, worms, infections,

torn ears, kittens having kittens,

get them to vets for snip and release,

for kitty hysterectomies,

for compassionate euthanasia,

incorrigibles returned with a notched ear

to keep on scrapping in colonies,

to keep on eating garbage and dodging cars,

or out to the country where barns offer

happy hunting grounds that lead

straight into the jaws of a coyote.

Meanwhile, foster homes overcrowd

with blind newborns, simulated mamas

providing warmth to the bottle-fed.

If they can achieve fighting weight

there’s a chance someone will

take them in. Felines, loved too much

or not enough, who brought you in

from the wilderness to guard the hulls

and the grain? Who belled you,

plucked your claws and taught you

to piss in a box? Who invites you

to eat canned pâté and lounge on mats

in the sun, and bat at yarn?

Are we symbionts? This price is steep

to keep getting drawn back

to bowls of kibble set out on back steps,

and blankets, and chin scritches,

and catnip. You take your revenge out

on my curtains. Toxoplasmosis.



The Ice Cream Churn


You associate your grandfather

with the wooden churn

the way you associate him

with books and overalls

and a drill-sergeant temper,

flash of cane, rattan rapping

its tattoo on your skull if you didn’t

change the channel fast enough

to spare his eyes the offending

colored person on-screen. Slave-owning

a poison in the blood that four generations

still hasn’t washed out. Meandering

north and west, but circling back

to visit his father’s mammy

in the hills of Old Dominion.

The way his pockets rattled with change

from working laundromats.

He introduced you to

Old Mother West Wind,

and in the summers, he made

ice cream in the shade

of the back porch and let you

pour in the rock salt. Surely

your grandmother must have

scalded the can and the dasher,

surely it was her bottle of vanilla,

but he mixed the milk and sugar,

layered in the ice, turned the crank

until his arm met resistance.

He wiped away salt water

beading the top. He lifted out

the metal quart and served it.

Plain, of course.




My favorite apartment was

by Cathedral Square,

the church founded in 1835,

a log cabin overlooking the river.

Its first parishioners would have been

farmers and traders,

maybe a fur trapper or two,

though they don’t strike me

as the praying type.


Now, its golden steeple

presides over a bustling downtown.

How I loved awakening to its great bells,

lauds and vespers underscored by light; 

the tower that’s burnished at sunset

glints at dawn. I used to think

that I was not worthy

to receive such solace,

that beginnings and endings do not

have to be so dreadful.


  1. Frank wisdom and humanity-- a lovely sense of history combined with the personal tone.


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