Carl Miller poems
page 36

September - December 1981

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Mad Laughter

Mad hooing laughter,
unidentified until
Jeani sees a squirrel.

Shelter Cove

Jeani’s headache, over a week old, drags on.
She’s sitting on the beach, reading a newspaper,
ignoring Johnny’s incessant narration
of what he’s doing or imagining.

Gulls with wings curved hover over a rock,
a cormorant flaps low over jade waves.

Red running dot, mite on a pebble, gone.
Another one, I put its pebble in my hand.
Bright red, eight legs, long snout like a weevil.
I let it crawl off my hand onto a rock.

The New Adventures of Columbus

Johnny brought home from kindergarten
a model of Columbus’ ship,
two crayon-colored paper sails
on masts of drinking straws
stuck into a milk carton
covered with a stapled paper hull.

He played a game in which Columbus
and his friend, Smith,
were sailing into a whirlpool.
The cats liked the smell of the ship.

Jeani made mushroom soup for dinner
with avocado pepper tomato salad,
which Johnny didn’t want to eat.

At bedtime Jeani talked to him
about being too rough and macho
with Siren, one of our mama cats.
He said he was afraid of the dark
and we were being mean.

While Jeani and I made love,
the half grown kittens were galloping
and rain was falling hard.
We didn’t hear Johnny doing anything.

I blew out the candle to go to sleep.
Jeani wanted to put on a T-shirt
and turned on a flashlight.

There at the foot of our bed
was a row of pillows from Johnny’s room,
Columbus’ ship on the first pillow,
an Easter basket on the second,
and more stuff back through the doorway.
“When did he do this?” we asked each other.

Jeani shone the light on Johnny’s bed
where he pretended to be asleep.
“Clean this up right now,” said Jeani.
“You’re supposed to be asleep,” I said.

Jeani and I laughed for quite awhile,
but couldn’t guess why Columbus
set sail on a river of pillows
to discover the foot of our bed.


Yesterday morning, I dreamed
I wanted to break the promises I made Jeani.

I was so glad to wake with her beside me,
but then something annoyed me, and she moved out.

Strange prophetic dream, another lover gone.
I guess this had to happen, sooner or later.

She can’t handle me getting angry at anything,
and I don’t know how to never get angry.

A reddish brown grasshopper wobbles on the mud,
changing position to shelter from the wind.

I’m also trembling, trying to adjust.
The sun is warm but my heart is made of ice.

Bear Butte

The man she wanted to forget;
his house was nothing memorable;
but the view from his window
of Bear Butte in the rain
flowed from memory to paper
through watercolor brush and pen.

When she moved in with me,
I was amazed by these paintings,
ink-outlined triangle firs
beneath swirling clouds and rocks,
and I hung them on the best wall.

We planned to marry that winter
but broke up in October.
She offered me one of the paintings
for Christmas, asked me to choose.

I puzzled which piece stood alone,
which would not break up the set,
and took the green and purple one
which seemed not to show the butte.

It’s in my bedroom now.
This morning after all these years
I saw the butte in this painting,
a shimmer of orange obscured
by fog above the meadow,
answer to an unasked question.

What might I have noticed in her,
had I patience to keep looking,
and what can I notice in me?

copyright © 1987 - 2005 Carl Miller
Drawing, “Black Sand Beach”: 1982, colored pencil on paper, 11 x 14 inches, detail 8.5 x 11 inches.

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