Lauren Scharhag (Western Voices 2022)

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). She has had over 200 publications in literary venues around the world. Recent honors include finalist for the Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest and the Seamus Burns Creative Writing Prize. Her work has also received multiple Best of the Net, Pushcart Prize, and Rhysling Award nominations. She lives in Kansas City, MO. To learn more about her work, visit:





sun-stricken star servant, i let them

trace their magic on my skin,

my vellum perpetually drinking it in,

that silver ink. as the sky lightens,

find my outline in the toadstool rings

and flattened grasses. i am their servant, too,

mycelium mirroring constellations,

both of us bound to this necrotic zone,

immutable as lost innocence.

i am the nocturnal things

that grow incandescent in the dark,

that learn to skewer uncertainty.

i live in the still contemplation,

the storyteller firesides, the holy silence.

i welcome comets and other strangers

to my flickering sanctum. i lick auroras

and chart somnambulist courses

through moonlit corridors.

i exude luminous epiphanies.

we are suspicious of what is easy.

if you would know me, find the paths

laid by glowworms and spook-lights.

if you would join me, you must learn

the tongues of crickets and the rustling leaves,

how to withstand the gaze of old gods

still prowling the firmament. the night is a blessing

not conferred on just anyone. Be worthy.

Be worthy. Be worthy.





For those of us who call

these bottoms and flood plains

home, our lives are governed

by the river. How it rises and falls.

How, each season, it overflows

the banks, breaching levies

and sandbags. The mosquitos

it breeds. The silt that nourishes

our hydrangeas and summer tomatoes

as well as the morels in their

furtive beds. The way it guides

migratory creatures, the sandhill cranes

and peregrines, shelters beaver

and otter, slakes the thirst

of resident turkey and foxes

and white-tailed deer. How it goes

dormant and white in winter

and sullen and lead-colored

under the spring rains. Scoop

a jar full, hold it up to the sun

and see how light does not

pass through. But we drink.

We watch from higher ground,

rising like birch and cottonwoods

from its muddy banks. Cut us

and we bleed brown.





First, snow turns to rain. By St. Patrick’s Day, 

usually, we’re in the clear, though I’ve seen

snow in May. Lent still underway, season of absence,

season of denial, Via Dolorosa yet to be trod.

Now, the tornado siren tests commence.

The ground beneath us warms and softens,

fairy ring mushrooms appearing in damp yards,

and lichen slicking pedestrian bridges. The invasive

hemlock that looks so harmless at first, so easily

mistaken for ferns along the trails, will spring up

to nine or ten feet before mid-summer, every part of it

toxic; pokeweed garlanded with jewel-bright berries,

also toxic, and dryad’s saddle spiraling up tree trunks

where it feasts on the white heart rot. But look,

here is the wild phlox, the wood anemones like stars

at my feet, and the tiny, fragile-stemmed mycena,

a whole galaxy clinging to the root of a decaying tree.

Here is the wild lilac, not yet teeming with bees, its buds

a covenant of petal fragrance to come, that heady mix

of live soil and spring rain that makes it all worth it,

the spear in the side, the rawness and poison. Breathing it in,

it seems impossible to believe the world is anything

but good. Passiontide. Open the windows and air

the place out. Climb the porch railings to hang windchimes.

The ponds awaken, unfurling sheathes of floating duckweed,

frogs singing their aquatic hymns from the creek, the water,

too, crooning over stones. My hands in the soil, my fingers

in the font. I touch them to my forehead, third eye.

Everything open. All the flowering trees, golden forsythia,

cherry, tulip, crabapple, seem to explode all at once,

like fireworks, their petals on sidewalks an after-parade,

a pile of discarded Easter egg shells. The morel hunters

are on the prowl with their sacks, much-needed umami

after forty days of fish and vegetables. The ditches

filled with violets. The irises dramatic with their velvety

dark purples, color of kings and altar cloths and tornadic

skies. Moss flourishes in the cracks of limestone bluffs.

Everywhere, tombs opening. Everywhere, eggs and seeds

cracking open. Hemisphere tilting sunward. On our knees,

in the garden, pouring from a bottle of Easter water.

The tornado sirens sound and, unafraid, we go

take shelter in the earth.

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