Side A Poetry: “California” by Dara-Lyn Shrager


The weeping cherry trees behind our house
were once no taller than kindergarten boys
colliding plastic trucks on a carpet of EZ grass.
Now, giant leaf canopies block the sun.
There’s just the lone dog out there, chasing
sudden whips of wind. Deep beneath my collar,
I feel cold. Hungry for those half-eaten
bowls of Cheerios left bloating by the kitchen
sink. Bring back the filthy sneakers, piled high
by the dented mud room door. Bring back
the noise and stink of boys, their long seasons
of runny noses and handprints on the walls.
With a dry mouth, I answer some late version
of a phone. I have been searching for my boy.
He was driving out in an arid canyon, where
snakes seek the shade of boulders, glisten
bright when they shed their skins to grow.

Mini-interview with Dara-Lyn Shrager

HFR: Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?

DS: In the fall of 2005, I looked out my bedroom room and saw a beautiful branch on a tree. I decided to apply for an MFA in Poetry because I wanted to write about that branch above all else I was doing in my life.

HFR: What are you reading?

DS: You All Grow Up and Leave Me by Piper Weiss, which is memoir-esque, and Four Way Books’ latest batch of poetry books.

HFR: Can you tell us what prompted “California”?

DS: A beautiful boy.

HFR: What’s next? What are you working on?

DS: I have just completed my second full-length collection. It took just a quick seven years to get that done! Publishers be forewarned: it’s GOOD.

HFR: Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?

DS: I am sad that the pandemic changed so many enjoyable aspects of daily life. What bothers me the most is how cynical people seem these days. I count myself among you so, don’t be offended. We suffered. Some of us more than others. Suffering changes people. I want us all to be better for having survived, not worse. That’s all. Love you.

Dara-Lyn Shrager is a poet and editor. She is the co-founder/editor of Radar Poetry. Her poetry collection, Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee, was published by Barrow Street Books in 2018. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in many journals, including Crab Creek Review, Southern Humanities Review, Barn Owl Review, Pembroke Magazine, The Rupture, Nashville Review, West Trestle Review, and Solstice Literary Magazine. Learn more at: and

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