Curling bluegreen waves
laughing gulls facing the wind
on the bleached gray sand.
One bird, head down, feathers fluffed,
chattering at another.
Whatever it wants,
it’s persistent. The other
ignores it then leaves.
An old man picks up a shell,
his woman won’t wait for him.
Few people today.
Cormorants and pelicans
circling over waves.
My mother was feeling too sore in the legs
to explore the beauty of Florida.
She sat in the trailer in her lazy boy,
watching the arts and crafts shows
on a local public television channel.
The painters were always in a hurry
as if they had to finish an oil painting live
in half an hour for a half hour show.
“Cover your canvas with your mighty brush!
Art! Why should it be hard?
Add this happy green and yellow here,
see how beautiful. Now hypnotize it—”
Okay, I have no idea what he meant by that,
nor did Mom, though she watched all his shows.
I sat on the porch, sketching an orange tree.
Later, at the beach, I drew a comic
of an alligator artist, “the allegory,”
giving a lesson about how he can paint
an orange tree quickly using his feet and tail.
I didn’t want to let Mom read my journal,
so I mailed her a photocopy later
of the orange tree sketch and allegory comic.
She said she hasn’t laughed so hard in years.
Since I got the book contract last year
to write The Goblin Plain War,
my editor and publisher
are taking the deadline seriously,
against all literary tradition,
and don’t want to give me extensions.
Meanwhile, Nancy, my ex,
has moved into the cabin next door
with our son, Rusty, and her daughter,
Ella, who’s demanding that
I finish enlarging this cabin
so she can have her own room
when summer vacation starts,
or she’s threatening to run away.
It rains the first two weeks of June.
Nancy’s new water system
keeps messing up all the time.
The connector broke between the pump
and the anaconda water line,
quickly draining the tank.
I’m fighting the book, scene by scene,
page by page, word by word.
Every situation doesn’t want
to go the way it needs to go.
I’m building Ella’s room, board by board,
nail by nail, to her choice of music.
First a rapper, the Young M. C.,
raps about how well he can rap,
then the heavy metal guys
start screaming and growling
insults and mindless lust.
I have no time to appreciate
anything wild or beautiful,
no time to think about who I am.
I’ve lost who I am.
Existence takes over.
What is existence?
I’m a strange attractor,
a stable pattern
in the turbulence.
Certain things vary.
Patterns change abruptly.
Rocks pattern the water,
but water shapes
and moves the rocks.
Time lapse photography
reveals a turbulent river
in the flow of clouds.
I chant OM
while trancing out on ripples
that shatter clouds, sky,
and pine-covered cinder cones
into pure color.
hammering rhythm of woodpeckers,
rose horizon to dusk,
cicada buzz nearby,
countless frogs in the distance.
Today I have Rusty for the first time
in a week that’s seemed like forever.
Just because Nancy’s new boyfriend
doesn’t want to visit his own son,
why should he stop me from seeing mine?
Two days after the great thunderstorm,
the hardest rain I’ve ever experienced here,
it’s back to warm, sunny September.
Rusty throws rocks into the creek,
plays with my cat Blackberry.
“Cats aren’t pillows. Cats are cats,” I say.
Rusty runs back and forth across
the wooden footbridge, over and over.
He fills a jar with rocks,
putting the lid on after each rock,
taking it off for the next rock.
He eats a banana, half a bowl of oatmeal,
a jar of baby spaghetti, which he calls, “ah-nee,”
and some hot corn chips.
He’s so excited to see me and do everything
we can do together that he doesn’t take a nap
till late afternoon, and I have to rock him
for fifteen minutes to get him into it.
Despite my earlier enlightenment
that deities are parental projections,
fathers who live in heaven,
great mothers, or whatever,
I find myself in a place where I need
the help of such a fictive parent.
I don’t want to be a lord’s peasant
or a shepherd’s sheep.
I won’t say help me out
and I’ll be your servant forever.
I do need some serious comforting
and spiritual guidance.
I don’t want this trouble to cause me
to fall into darkness and anger.
I pray for strength.
I pray for wisdom.
I pray for balance.
I pray for love.
The unifying principle of the universe is ball.
Rusty discovered this in the name of having
some of these objects available for throwing,
bouncing, chasing, and similar delights.
The full moon is a ball, as are similar objects
like Voyager Two’s pictures of Uranus and Neptune.
Rusty favors foods that are balls, such as huckleberries,
peas, oranges, and apples, which he calls, “abball.”
Both his bottle and the soap bubbles
Nancy or Ella blow are called, “bobball.”
One of my cats, a fluffy white female
with gray nose and ears, is named Puffball,
a word he pronounces with relative perfection,
even though she seldom allows him more
than a glimpse of herself vanishing in the woods.
Cats in general are, “naneows,” a word
he also uses for any other small mammal.
After midnight and deep into winter,
a raccoon commando came in the cat door
and woke me up by chasing my kittens,
Mary Lou, the white with calico spots,
and Peggy Sue, the regular calico,
all around the living room.
When I came out of my bedroom,
the raccoon panicked and tried to climb
the doors, walls, and everything else,
even the hot stovepipe. The chase was
as frantic as a Tex Avery cartoon.
He would have swung like Tarzan on the plants
hung under the skylight if I hadn’t
beaned him with a box of baby wipes.
Finally he hopped into the stove cage
and out the cat door, leaving a wreckage
of potted plants spilled and broken,
a scrambled manuscript, and me weeping
like Elmer Fudd tormented by Bugs Bunny.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller
Painting, “Snead Island Mangroves”: 1998, acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 11 x 14 inches.