Category Archives: poetry

Poetry Madness Is Correlated With Word Death

Original at age 17 (first version lost; my dad probably has a copy):

Augusta Wind

Augusta Wind will blow again,
Her bones like water without skin,
A phantom of the reedy maid
Who blossoms from the river’s wake
In high-moon nights of distilled gin.

Her movement whispers through the din,
A sigh, a song, a swell within
Of rising docks that groan and shake
With a gust of wind.

Her hands are soft, but chilled with sin;
They shut the red, gin eyes of men;
They shake them on the docks and take
Their souls with soft embraces; make
Them grasp at whispering maidens,
At nothing but Augusta Wind.

Age 19:

Love and Cosmos

He sent her cosmos on the hill
And pushed against the gate
That rusted shut from rainy months,
But creaked against his weight.

He rattled sweet-pea on the stalk
And glory in the vine;
He knelt before the one-eyed saint
That bowed the columbine.

He saw the light between the slats–
He spied her sleeping there–
Between the rows of climbing vines,
Close to the briar lair.

Age 22:

Villanelle of Wind and Sea

I hadn’t really thought about the wind,
Although it flaps the sails of many ships,
But now it brings the sea into my mind.

I saw a ship with three white sails to bind,
While still at bay, the three sails cracked like whips–
I hadn’t really thought about the wind.

The hull and bulk were tied for lengths of time,
That in the waves they rocked and stirred and tipped–
The wind, it brought the sea into my mind.

And I would smell the creosote and brine,
And taste the wind like salt fish on my lips–
But still I wouldn’t think about the wind.

At times, I glimpsed the gleaming lines of light
That anchor in the songs of tipping men;
Unanchored, songs of windy sails unwind
With words that make the sea a place of mind.

Age 25:

Ode to a Yellow Rose

Small rose upon my table,
Brought in from the storm,
Its yellow head and petals
Tipping with orange.

A lone view of perfection
Rests within that rose–
As my eye to the world,
My briefest hellos.

How are you, my yellow rose?
Do you see the day?
You, emblazoned by the sun–
Then trampled by rain.

Hello, hello, back to you.
I hear your voice, now,
As the eye of this rough storm,
Abating, but loud.

Age 30:

I Want to Live

I want to live his memories
with fingers free to mourn
his words that fall as crumbs to birds,
their scraps caught up by storms.

I want to breathe his breath, my last,
inside the heart of wind,
the taste of rain a teasing sense
that lingers in my mind.

I want to view his city’s streets,
the windows dark and cold,
with fires burning inwardly
for lighting up the stones.

I want to disappear tonight
inside his vacant house,
where time waits in the empty suit
that shivers on the couch.

I want to hear him whispering
in notes that signal death
and stretch beyond the willow twigs
that rattle in the hearth.

To live in death, I hold my breath;
I knock on doors shut tight
and wait for lock-pick bands of light
to throw the hinges wide.

Age 35:

Midnight in the Garden of Zeugma

Lucia stepped out to gather her rows,
wisps of formed phrases and gentle bon mots,
and the vegetables ripe for the picking:
crooknecks of smiles, and snap-peas clicking
wind-aching chives and chimes round the barrows,
following paths of flax through the yarrow.

Inside her head the gloom was gathering
zest and lovage and herbs for ravening:
How do you do; how fares the night for you?
How fair the garden when the moon creeps through.
Her feet gathered speed with the brooding clouds,
no room in her basket for plucking shrouds.

Back inside her house of stones, the door slammed;
she dropped the basket, spilling out her drams,
her oaths, her thoughts: outside the dust and sky;
what gathered spilled itself, suspended time,
until the tears of love had spent themselves
with time, ill-spent, and she had placed them on shelves.

The storm, once spent, broke open clearer skies
and the bank, where water surged toward the light.
Lucia stepped forth one more time for herbs,
her feet quick along the same sodden turf,
her ideas and verbs scattered to the wind,
his grave – love’s grave was gravity to mind.

Lucia gathered gravity’s first fruits,
what the storm had grasped and flung along the route:
grasping roots for gasping maiden fancy,
while light gave gravity and brilliancy
to golden hair that spilled toward his grave,
her tears tucked on shelves, or deeply interred caves.
How do you do; how fares the night for you?
How fair the garden when the moon creeps through —
wisps of formed phrases and not-so bon mots
gathered, tumultuous, inside her rows.
She laid down the yarrow, flax and smiles,
a chance to cloak her misery with guile.

Her basket emptied; yet again her heart,
she walked toward the water in the dark;
Her foot first struck the cold along the bank
and, next, her heart was filled with water, cold, dank;
the moon crept through and spilled on grassy caves,
and chives chimed dancing over both their graves.

Age 40:

I am Lucia, already in my word grave.

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The Peregrine Three

Several years ago, my dad, artist A. Leon Miler, asked me to write a poem based on his image of a peregrine:

Because I had lost all my confidence in my ability to write poetry (not that I’d ever had any), I wrote numerous small poems about peregrines and never gave him any of them to use with his bird. Since then, I’ve found three of those peregrine poems. They aren’t great pieces of poetry, but they’re interesting. Take a gander–they’re short enough to hold most people’s attention span.

1:

His perch rests on the highest throne,
a raven wounded by the dart,
whose beak tears at the serpent tail.
He turns from flight to death to hell,
but Peregrine, he tears the heart,
then rises to his tower stone.

A counterpoint to Peregrine,
whose height and gravity and flight
will rein the wind in vacant skies,
in deserts etched with falcon eyes,
he draws his story in the night:
the swan and eagle light his screen.

His lights are visible from earth,
where truth is history’s weight to bear.
His wings flash brilliantly, then dim
and fall below horizon’s rim.
Yet, Peregrine, he rules the air
by snatching those who sing his worth.

2:

He snatches song birds from the air,
the bloody peregrine;
he chants his song on top his throne,
the chiding peregrine;
he gathers movement with his eyes
and rides the air between
the sky and earth and stone, tall tower,
such cunning, peregrine.

3:

The fields are orange—the world’s on fire,
And songbirds flee the acres at break-neck.
They search the river in ribbons of sand—
in glimmers of light—they search for water.
With aching and sorrow in silent currents,
Peregrine snatches the songbirds in flight.

The fields are orange, the world’s on fire,
the chollas are blazing with yellow light,
and Peregrine rises to his tower,
chiding his song, his goodness—the liar,
night from day and spirit from song,
scorching the fields until darkness is fire.

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¡Ay, acordeonista!



The big black case rests
in my room sometimes,
in a dream with butterflies
that sleep in chrysalides.
Loas develop there,
sonnets from the mist,
wet lilies from graves,
and songs that fountain the flow.


The waves, once open,
pour over docks,
the sound and breath spin me,
the powerful cup
of liquor fills my longing
through reeds that vibrate my air,
hands that open my voice,
and bellows that fill my lungs.


It’s a taste, sweet to my mouth;
it’s nothing except death
that slips in and covers my skin.
The clasps have closure
in shadows without sonnets.
My dreams don’t touch me.
They weep into ballads
before I suspend them.


I don’t want the flow to cease,
or the music to desert me,
or the accordionist to leave me
among broken words;
but the black case disappears
like a vapid friend
whose fingers are made of air,
spectral to my couplets.


I originally wrote this poem in Spanish in corresponding syllabic lines of seven and eleven, and with an assonant rhyme scheme–all even lines rhymed and all odd lines rhymed. I translated it into English because I’m a little too shy to post my Spanish stanzas online. Plus, you know, my English audience will be able to understand it this way.

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Love and Cosmos


He sent her cosmos on the hill
And pushed against the gate
That rusted shut from rainy months,
But creaked against his weight.

He rattled sweet-pea on the stalk
And glory in the vine;
He knelt before the one-eyed saint
That bowed the columbine.

He saw the light between the slats–
He spied her sleeping there–
Between the rows of climbing vines,
Close to the briar lair.

The blue eyes slept beneath her dreams;
He crept in with a prayer
To smooth the roses, one by one,
That bloom in tangled hair.

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