Open your heart to the forest.
Feel the trees inside yourself.
Feel yourself inside the trees,
green trees bright with winter rain,
intricate, beautiful, and real.
My younger sister
has gotten older than I am.
While I’m thinking about clams
and mangroves and pelicans,
she’s thinking about how long
it’s been since the last time
we walked a beach together.
Music of the stream,
texture of sandstone and moss,
tiny flies and dreams.
In the sunlight
I sit on a mossy rock,
yearning, always yearning.
An editor said she wanted
more poems on relationships;
she wasn’t so interested
in the landscapes.
Right now, my main relationship
is with the forest I live in.
In fact, one of the reasons
I broke up with my lover
was that she didn’t want to live here.
I need the peace of fiddleheads
unrolling to bracken ferns.
Once loneliness has changed
into solitude, I would prefer
not to think of lovers or friends,
for fear of changing it back.
Oh sure, I want a family,
or at least a companion,
but wishes wished too hard
have a way of not coming true,
or of coming true distorted.
I have lived with these swordferns
and chainferns beside the streamlet,
and the deer that nose around,
their fawns, and their fawns’ fawns,
for nine years now.
I listen to ravens and songbirds,
and admire the shapes of trees.
Here, I have no human companion,
but I am not alone.
Listen to the water, listen to the wind.
Feel the depth of your own heart.
Love opens you to beauty and terror.
Dream while you are awake.
Look toward the light, sing songs of the spirit.
“The music’s still there in your spirit.
It’s looking for a new way into your body,”
I tell Solomon, and he agrees.
Cracked bones, ripped artery, injured brain,
left for dead by a hit and run drunk,
hospital, seizures, drugs, depression, anger,
and a wife who complains that he’s changed.
“I’m still here,” he tells me. “I can play guitar,
but I can’t sing at the same time.”
He tells me how he felt inspired last spring
standing on the edge of cracking ice
that sounded like the tinkle of wind chimes.
He wanted to record this, set it to music.
In water bubbling like champagne
in a one-piece bathing suit
like my mother used to wear,
Darlene jokes about her eye makeup
smudging like a vampire.
Her clawing becomes a real hug.
She holds me floating on my back,
eyes closed, ears underwater,
making me trust her support.
On our return from spa to room,
the foghorn plays a two-note chant
over the drone of distant waves.
Her suite is a fantasy of wealth,
crackling fire, marble hearth,
polished wood and lush carpeting.
I think Darlene wants to make love
but I hesitate taking off my shorts
while she’s in the bathroom.
She comes out in a baggy T-shirt.
She has me lay on the bed,
gets out her massage oil,
strokes my back and belly,
deeply, like she does a client,
lightly, like she does a lover.
With me on top, she reaches down
to pull the hem of her T-shirt
off her hips, breasts, and head.
I’ve got microphones attached with clothespins
to music stands and pieces of bamboo,
plugged into a four-track cassette recorder.
Dau’s impatiently waiting for me
to make up another song for him to play.
I’m fingering a cascade of weird chords
down the neck of my used handmade guitar,
trying to find a place for it to land.
Ah! plain A major, then rhythm and boogie,
then the cascade again. Okay, I’m ready.
He blows a few notes on his alto sax
so I can check the sound level,
and a dissonant honk to blow my mind.
Here it comes. I repeat the cascade four times,
while he teases notes, magic from the start.
We go on and on for seven minutes,
longer than anything else we played today,
cool jazz and honking boogie.
Dau, who grew up Jewish in the Bronx
and interprets people by their ethnic groups,
says he felt like we were possessed
by the spirits of a couple old black guys
from the first chord to the last howl and toot.
The playback sounds perfect.
Let’s move the mikes and dub in the drums.
Don’t give me this, “I’m so sorry
but it has to be this way,” stuff.
Everything that’s happened since
the morning I made pancakes
has been your choice.
I miss you too, but what I miss
is the feeling of living together,
making salads and washing plates,
riding your bicycle all over town
while you see a massage client.
You want an affair with a man
who’s otherwise out of your space.
I’m an author of fairy tales.
I want something like marriage
and happily ever after.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller
Drawing, “Hoka Hey Creek”: 1982, ballpoint in notebook, 6 x 8 inches, detail about 4.5 x 6 inches.