Immigration at Nine


The world is mine. The mountains are mine

The dimpled hills I made with my finger.

The snow is mine. I lick it, stomp it, dream in it.


The night in the night sky is my breath.

The stars I’ve gargled in my throat.

Those lavender flower bells in the prairie are mine.

All the apples on that bough mine,

even those I cannot reach and the cold

spring is mine and it loves my toes

my hair, my face, my hands and feet.


My grandmother is all mine, she braids

my hair in the evening by the fire

and in the morning my hair has waves

like the sea and the mare is mine

and she waits for me while I clean mud

off my boots and she stops before the big wooden

fences she knows together we cannot cross


for the wolves that pace my village are also mine.

They talk to me about the secrets in the forests.

They call up my fears so I may gnaw at them in the dark.


All the limestone rock, too, is mine.

And the cow dung that drapes the rocks.

Smells of the valley in spring is mine

when I walk along deeply trodden

wooden paths, and sheep follow.


One day a plane takes me away

to be with my father in Chicago

and we drive in an old big rusty


car down snow smeared streets

where people look down. We take

an elevator that smells of piss and

vomit and cheap tobacco and it has

an empty hole.


And I can see the many cords move

in the darkness up to the 13th floor

of what I will one day know is a

Half Way House and my father unlocks


the door and tells me we are going

to have a better life and a gun rests

on the radiator and it smells of beer,

and turpentine as roaches edge doors

and winds rattle windows.




Slobodanka L Strauss was born in Novi Sad, Serbia and at the age of nine immigrated to the States, and received a BA in philosophy at Loyola University and MFA at Lesley University. Strauss’ work has appeared in the Chicago Reader, Bitter Oleander, Atlanta Review and others. She currently lives in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.