Carl Miller poems
page 39

January - August 1983

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The Mouth of the Russian River

Without talking, you and I
play toss and catch with a pebble,
trying two hands, trying one,
stretching far or close to center.

Energized, we walk the sand spit
between the ocean’s clear green waves
and the river’s murky slowness
while clouds drizzle off and on.

Sitting on a rock wall facing
homes across the river, we talk
about what a tarot-card reader
told you twenty years ago,
what you want to accomplish
before you die, how soon
you think this might happen.

Watching muddy water meet salt,
I question your impatience.
Where’s there to go but the sea?
The journey itself is what matters.

Clouds darken, rain falls steady,
we hurry back to the truck.

By the Lights of Guerneville Bridge

I’m sitting on a canoe-sized dock
on the Russian River, writing
by the lights of Guerneville Bridge.

Smells of silty shore after rain,
lights reflected in black water,
reminds me of the Cuyahoga.

The bridge is a complicated truss
that looks strong from here,
but trembles with crossing trucks.

Somehow I’ve lost my calmness.
Shayla and I have big arguments
over unimportant things.

Upstream I can see a long way,
a midnight Monet of tree reflections.
Downstream I can’t see past the bridge lights.

Bursts of Typing

After a few pauses between bursts of typing,
I tell Melanie I’m trying to find the right words
to capture a sequence of images.
I can’t do this and talk at the same time.

She hears me change sheets of paper
and asks if I’m done. No, but I’ll talk.
She asks me for certain types of words,
filling blanks to make a nonsense story.

“Look at Blackbeard, how cute,” she says.
The sleepy cat slowly washes his face
while she sings, “Love is a Rose,” in meows.

I keep typing, partly my poem,
partly the poem that’s happening now.

Cottonwood Springs

Late afternoon, Sonora Desert,
cool shade at Cottonwood Springs,
a dense growth of fan palms,
shaggy dead fronds over the trunks.

In the bottom of the canyon,
desert plants are spaced apart
like a Japanese garden.
I photograph yucca, pencil cholla,
interesting rock formations
thinking each picture will be unique.

I wonder if I’m really here,
already sunburned, carrying
a black umbrella for shade,
an idea other hikers envy.

From a boulder’s shadow I sketch
one of those rock formations.
Shayla says I do something with
my aura to block people out.
I do this when a crowd of people
walk between me and my rocks.

I feel somewhat more here and now
as I walk back to our campsite,
but there I block out Shayla,
her daughter and the other girl.

Back home without Shayla,
my photographs all look alike—
cactus, yucca, rocks.

My House Is Not Empty

My house is not empty
without her, for I live here.
Some shelves stand bookless,
one closet has no clothes,
the Persian rugs are gone.

Sitting in the sun,
I write poems about the creek
that runs below my house,
noting the colors of flies
and which flowers are open.

In town for conversations,
I feel self-conscious when
I want to hug the women,
not knowing how much love
I can offer or accept.

Each morning I wake up,
each night return to bed,
keeping myself cheerful,
counting each advantage
of this situation.

From Galileo’s Notebooks

Galileo through his telescope,
three days after Christmas, watching
Jupiter’s four moons perform
their nightly dance, saw and sketched
a star too dim for the naked eye
less than seven arc-minutes away.

This star he labeled, “fixa,” but
he noted that it moved a bit
in relation to other stars
when he drew it again a month later.

He paid it little attention.
His interest was absorbed by
the moons orbiting Jupiter,
by the crescent and gibbous Venus,
by what proved Copernicus right.

His slow star cannot be found
on twentieth century star charts,
but moved within one are-minute
of where astronomers calculate
the planet Neptune was those nights.
Two centuries before it was
discovered, Galileo saw it.


A week after I hung my paintings
in the Garberville Library,
I read your complaint in the comment book
that all of my landscapes look alike
because they’re all green.

I guess you wouldn’t like my house.
Every window frames trees and ferns,
and all around the living room
are spider plants and wandering jews.

All our hills are covered with trees,
and much of the time, the grass is green.
In Spring, even our creeks and rivers
run the green of tarnished bronze.

It’s a green world. Leave my drawings,
go outside and look around.
Feel the peace this color gives
to redwood groves and ocean waves.
That’s what I wanted to show you.

Pink Muslin

“This pink is the color of the heart,”
she says, unfolding the muslin curtain
she reclaimed from her ex-lover’s house.
“Is there enough to make me a skirt?”
“There’s enough here for a whole dress,” I say,
then she shows me another piece the same size.

The project becomes a skirt with matching blouse.
She sketches thoughts as they occur to her,
and asks which one would be easiest to make.
“We only have to make it once, and you’ll
have it for years,” I say. “What’s your favorite?”

I’m Fine

How am I? I must say fine.
If I talked about the electric charge,
the lightning waiting to strike,
I’d be a person with problems,
living day to day wanting to scream
at everyone who doesn’t want to know.

I stay where no one asks me where I am,
hoping the emptiness swallows the lightning
to make me flecks of sunlight on water.
I must say I’m fine to make it true.

copyright © 2005 Carl Miller

The poem I was writing in “Bursts of Typing” was “The Mouth of the Russian River.”

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