J O S E P H  M I L L A R

2  poems

Materials 2


Crack sack smack shellac: 

you listen to the sounds of Babylon,

to the rattle and slam of the midnight train

and other noises you can’t tell apart—

carnival joy or evangelical pain

coming straight from the heart—


and you are not sad about the jade ring

lost in the frozen sand.

You are like the mouse

who hides in the wall,

he's chewing the plaster

making a hole,

his feet spread open like hands

for he can smell something sweet

near the sink, honey or blackberry jam.

In the Days: A Love Poem


Let’s go on TV like David Lynch

and take up just as much time as we like

as many red drapes and bullet holes

as many doug fir branches swaying in the wind,

the consciousness a dark-breasted swallow

veering around in the dusk


the radio saying

Do-you-love-jazz-send-a-check

to keep us from going bust


and you stepping over to the roses 

carrying the shears in one hand,

the bra strap trailing one shoulder,

your straw hat bent at the crown.


And in the days after my son almost died

I stared at the green leaves and the bay


for we were retiring and kept on giving

our books and possessions away

and I kept forgetting everything:


I forgot to be sad about Don Quixote

and the letters of Tennessee Williams

I forgot the sea-flowers of Joan Miro


as I walked the trestle bridge in the country

looking down at the water below.


There went the dining room table,

there went the mirror and gooseneck lamp

the blasphemous placemats and silverware,

LP records, turntable, amp.


I forgot to wash my face in the morning

and forgot the news with its hurricane warning,

the ledges of time and the films about crime


till the fog came in over the fields and woods

dim and indifferent, cold like the sea,

cold like the addiction gene in my blood


and though it was meteor season

I saw nothing when I looked at the sky


I went back inside and turned on baseball

and a couple old episodes of Perry Mason

hoping to see the truth come out

and a happy ending in the courtroom of doubt.


Later I would sit in the kitchen, one day after it rained

noticing the ants had left us alone

and listening to rainwater dropping

and looked at you by the stove


who were so kind to him

when he came to live in our home

having lost most use of his right arm and leg

for you could make a sudden small happiness,

gingerbread muffins or a scrambled egg


and sometimes a poem like the crow out back

tapping on a piece of bent tin

under the threads of the rain.

 

Text Title

Joseph Millar is the author of Overtime, Fortune, Blue Rust, and Kingdom. His work has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Pushcart Prize. He teaches in Pacific University’s Low Residency and in North Carolina State’s MFA program.