Carl Miller poems
page 22

January - June 1976


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Yon and the Deer


Yon’s hair and beard were still wet from swimming
when he told me, “I caught a deer today,”
and paused for me to ask him what he meant.

While swimming with some children at the preschool,
he saw a deer jump into the river,
chased by a dog, which also jumped in
and was overtaking her in the current
when he swam out and caught the deer himself.

I could picture Yon grinning through his black beard,
holding this doe upside down by the ankles,
wading ashore to show her to the children.
He set her down and held her firmly while
they petted her and pulled ticks from her hide.

He gestured, showing me how his arms were moved
each time she tried a powerful kick.
I could feel the energy in her legs
restrained by the muscles of his slow grip.

When he let go, with the children stepped back,
she paused before bolting, and someone held
the dog long enough for her to escape.
Then they searched each other over for ticks.



Charles Darwin Facing Innocence


On an island of dreams, a large iguana
was methodically digging a burrow,
clawing away the hot afternoon dust.

When a curious man who was watching
pulled its tail to drag it out of its hole,
it slowly turned, flapping feet on the dust,
raised its forelegs and looked into his face
as if surprised, indignant, and confused.

He looked at the bright eyes blinking sunlight
on its crested, scaly head, thinking how,
having no instinctive fear of humans,
it responded with curiosity
instead of programmed threat or flight.

The lizard returned to digging its hole;
the scientist verbalized its reaction
in his notes as, “What made you pull my tail?”



The Katydid After the Poetry Reading


The night slipped in through the open back door
while we carried chairs around rows of bookcases,
or discussed the poems and stories we had shared,
or had one more cookie or cup of lemonade.

At first I did not see the bright green visitor
on the shoulder of the woman next to me.
When I said, “There’s a katydid!” it leaped into flight
and rustled across the room to someone else’s arm.

Its absurd beauty caught everyone’s attention,
and for a few moments, the whole library
seemed new and unexpected, the books, walls, and faces
also made vivid, emphasized by the contrast.



The Dragon Reconsidered as an Angel


Taking a new look at a Pteranodon’s bones,
a scientist marvels at how hollow they are,
more thinly walled than those of any bird,
the wings perhaps too fragile to be flapped.

With weight so minimal and wings so large,
just unfolding their full span in a breeze
might give enough lift to float it off the waves,
holding fish in a pelican-like pouch.

What was thought a bat-winged dragon may be
reconsidered an angel with wings of white fur,
gliding with more ease than an albatross,
nesting far from the dinosaur-haunted mainland.

But this is tentative, subject to revision;
what really is is obscure as a fossil’s skin.



Vincent Van Gogh Painting Stars by Candlelight


Standing on the gaslit bank of the Rhone,
a scholar searching for Van Gogh’s landscapes
realized that without additional light
he could not possibly have seen his paints.

The story told in Arles must be true—
how the painter was seen walking through town
wearing a hat with candles on its brim,
carrying a canvas with yet more candles
to paint the stars for the first time from life.

Balancing his light so he could see both
the pigments on his palette and canvas
and the subtle blues of sky and river,
stars and spilling reflections of gaslight,
he set to capture it all with quick strokes.



From Elk Ridge in Early Summer


Waves of grass express a rising wind.
Fir boughs bounce in complicated patterns.
Mountains cut the fog into gray and white,
the slow ocean of a Japanese print.

Insects passing close to my ears
make a momentary buzz before
dissolving into a whoosh of wind
with distant chatterings of unseen birds.

The grass ripens with a rich smell of hay
as seeds dry out, readying to disperse.
The wind, though moist with odors from the sea,
has traveled much too far to taste of salt.
Puffs of fog make patchworks of chill and warmth
only sometimes blended by the breezes.



Lost Love


Mary didn’t want
to get back together with me,
but for two years after we broke up
we sometimes made love.

She was still in Garberville
when I was trying Laura,
after that, she lived in Arcata,
working as a nurse’s aide.

She liked my Volkswagen bug
better than the Chevy van
because the front seats were closer
and we could easily talk.

I don’t remember her Arcata home,
or what our lovemaking was like.
I was still devastated that
she was never going to be my wife.

I didn’t describe anything.
All I have are notations
that these events occurred
on the calendar in my journal.



copyright © 1979 - 2005 Carl Miller

Drawing, “Buck Gulch”: 1982, colored pencil on Strathmore paper, 12 x 18 inches.

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