Secret death of birds

writing in airplanes

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

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fun In al fresco shower


while christians on mount sinjar
have nothing to drink
no drops of water

gallons were wasted
flowing from pier to cactus
don’t need hydration

seven outdoor pools
an ocean in front of you
child plays in shower

toddler turns nozzle
mother and father watching
flows twenty minutes

we left two thousand
someone else says five thousand
one is too many

probably weakest
those who need the most help
and who will help them now


chai (18) the unluckiest number

chai means hebrew chai is spelled with two letters /numbers: yud (10) & chet (8). it’s supposed to be a lucky number.

every year before rosh hoshannah,the jewish new year,my father would go buy kosher hot dogs and everything,take this to the synagogague and have a cook out for men who would donate money to run the synagogue and buy aliyahs for the new year.these honors were taking out,reading and dressing the torah…..

it’s a custom of jewish people to make these donations in multples of sunday or religious school ,when i was little you could buy a tree in isreal make a donation for 18.00 in honor or memory of someone.i had a chai necklace, actually two…we had a tree of life on the wall ,when you walk into the hall of the synagogue with gold leaves and my father bought many of these leaves in multiples of 18 , in memory of relatives…my parents 41 and 45 years older than me and both of the largest jewish families in my s.c. town….so there were many leaves…somewhere on a wet moving truck in maryland ,i have a picture with my father and a shovel at the groundbreaking of the new synagogue, when i was one year old.

my father had donated in multiples of 18 , doors for sunday school rooms- 1800, 3600, stained glass windows in the sanctuary, the rabbi’s study, the hall of the sanctuary and yizkor tablets 40,000 to purchase and plaques for relatives, friends, in multiples of 18 again and many of these things my father would donate from his sisters who were widows for their husbands…. the first tablet was for my mother’s mother who died at 88 when i was 17. grandmothers die at that age.

two months later ,when i was 18 , my mother died, and half of my heart.when i was 36, my father and the rest of my heart.