Member Spotlight

Erica Goss

January 12, 2020

Genre

Poetry

For me, writing started with listening. I grew up in a bilingual household, and spoke both English and German before I understood them to be separate languages. So many words were the same or similar: house/Haus, mouse/Maus, hand/Hand, before/bevor, and so many were different: face/Gesicht, leg/Bein, girl/Mädchen. My parents read to me in both languages until I started school, and then they decided to switch to English. German was, by that time, permanently imprinted in my brain, and it’s the language I associate with my earliest childhood memories.

I started writing poems in the third grade. As I grew up, I wrote poems, stories, song lyrics, essays, and diary entries. But after I graduated from college in my early twenties, I wrote less and less. Then one day, a year or two after I got married, the idea for a story popped into my head and wouldn’t let me go. I stopped going to lunch with my coworkers and started writing, sneaking time from my job to write the story that had suddenly obsessed me.

That story led to others, to poems, essays, articles and reviews. In my mid-thirties I went back to school, earned an MFA after many years while raising two sons, and continued writing and publishing my work. In 2013, I was named Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA, a position I held for three years.

Now I live in Eugene, Oregon, which is truly a city of poets. The literary community here is active, supportive, and eclectic. I’m happy to be part of it.

You can read some of my recent work online at A-MinorRise Up Review, and Circle Show. I also edit Sticks & Stones, a free newsletter featuring one poetry book review per issue. I blog at www.ericagoss.com.

   The State of Jefferson

 

    Trucks shuffle in the slow lane.
    Mt. Shasta’s a crazy white cone.
    I drive as fast as I dare.
    Car my shelter, my tiny house
    of spiders’ nests and trash. Even
    in an imaginary land,
    you need to refuel: 8.5
    gallons of unleaded and
    I-5’s traditional cuisine:
    crinkly bags of Chex Mix and
    Sour Worms at Manfredi’s
    Food & Gas Depot in Dunsmuir.
    On the passenger seat, a
    thumb-sized jar of my father’s
    ashes. I’d be lying if
    I said it didn’t give me
    a weird little thrill to have
    him sit where I sat as a
    child, those deeply dull hours
    in our Dodge Dart, him driving
    too fast and lecturing me
    about dog breeds and the French
    Revolution. Just after
    the sign that says “College Weed”
    with arrows in front of each
    word pointing in opposite
    directions, I take the curve
    a little fast, reach over,
    right the jar of my father’s
    ashes, saying, sorry, did
    I scare you? We hurtle past
    the “Oregon Welcomes You”
    sign with its eight black trees spot-
    lighted in the evening
    dusk. I’m flying, faster and
    faster down the mountain to-
    wards Ashland but we’re still in
    Jefferson, my father and
    I, land of the elegantly
    rusting Penelope the
    Dragon, of signs proclaiming
    “No Monument” and “Bigfoot
    Crossing,” of few people and
    a few million cows. I chew
    the last of the Sour Worms.
    High-fructose powder dusts my
    fingers. How you doing, dad?
    He doesn’t answer. Perhaps
    at last, he’s fallen asleep.

 

Winner of the 2019 Zócalo Poetry Prize

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