Literary Orphans

In Want of Decay by Amy Strauss Friedman

The smell of libraries

is a kind of code

begging for translation

by opposing voices.


A lone reader shouts

into an uninhabited cave

along a post-apocalyptic



There is no sustenance

in unmingled air,

no unclaimed civilization

grateful for rot.


Well-thumbed pages

are tongues of decomposing

trees licking at unfolding time.

They are lovers satisfied


through human touch.

Paper compounds convert

into almond and vanilla,

the way we liberate oxytocin


through embrace, or each other

through affirmation. It is here

that decay eclipses death

and we are freed.

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Amy Strauss Friedman is the author of the chapbook Gathered Bones are Known to Wander (forthcoming from Red Bird Chapbooks). She is a regular contributor to the newspaper Newcity and a staff writer for Yellow Chair Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kentucky Review, Whale Road Review, Red Paint Hill, FLAPPERHOUSE, Lunch Ticket, et al. Amy earned her MA in Comparative Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Chicago and teaches English at Harper College and at Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development. Her work can be found at

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–Art by Kaia Pieters

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