My novels aren’t selling very well.
Dragons seem to be out of style.
I’m tired of words.
In artistic response to despair,
I draw Rusty’s drinking cup,
and yes, I think it’s half empty.
The rain finally ended.
Troy came home for the weekend.
Two more weeks and he graduates
from truck driving school. What then?
According to Troy, Ella’s supposed
to stick around till the end of school.
According to Ella, she’s out of here.
No more tenth grade teachers.
No more kids who don’t like her.
She’ll be in the big rig’s passenger seat,
going down the road,
feeling good with the man she loves.
There’s no way to stop her now.
Dau got letters from an old friend
he hadn’t seen in a long time
who told him she was thinking about
trying a relationship with him.
She lived in the Sierra foothills,
said she had some younger friends
who might be interested in me.
Okay, whatever, I gave him a ride,
with little Rusty in the back seat.
Somewhere between Willits and Clear Lake
Dau started shouting nonsense like,
“Noodle haggan!” to express
enthusiasm, unnerving me
in traffic, but he would not stop.
We found an old woman there,
devoted to the traditional culture
of nineteen sixties hippies.
She made tiedye instead of doilies,
and chain-smoked marijuana.
Her idea of entertainment
was a sixteen millimeter movie
of some South American Indians
who always wore white clothes,
and condescended to give the world
their wisdom in this film before
going back up their mountain forever.
Her friends thought this was so heavy.
Of course she and Dau had no
attraction for each other at all.
I sat by her bullfrog pond
with Rusty watching the big frogs
launch themselves into the duckweed.
I called her Great Grandma Hippie-Hippie,
after a rabbit from a children’s book,
Great Grandpa Bunny-Bunny,
the old wandering artist who paints
rainbows and sunsets on the sky.
Rusty and I were on the road
by the orchard when the landscape
visibly shook like jelly.
The trees waved every which way.
Rusty was really weirded out.
There were small and medium aftershocks
all day, a big one at midnight,
another at four in the morning.
Medicine bottles fell off shelves,
which was usual, and some paintings
fell off the wall, which was not.
Books moved forward but didn’t fall off.
That’s how it is at my house.
Wooden posts with concrete feet
are better in earthquakes than
a slab or perimeter foundation.
Ferndale, Scotia, and Petrolia
suffered worst, according to the news.
Houses jumped off foundations,
chimneys fell, windows broke.
Today I cut down
the big fir tree next to the house.
It was starting to lean toward my room.
Both chainsaws gave me trouble.
The big Stihl wouldn’t cut straight,
wouldn’t start, and kept stalling.
The little Homelite’s starter cord spring
violently uncoiled itself.
The tree was twenty four inches in diameter
and seventy years old. Curiously,
the first thirty one rings were crowded
into two and three quarters inches,
then suddenly it started growing quickly.
This must have happened when the loggers
cut down the trees of the five foot stumps,
sometime in the nineteen fifties,
making the area open and sunny.
The tree was a hundred eleven feet tall.
It started falling slowly when
I drove in the second falling wedge,
When it landed it broke two of my cables,
but I only lost a few feet from each one.
Now I have a mess, an area
once again made open and sunny,
and lots of firewood next winter.
Rusty’s obsessed with tomorrow.
Each morning he tells me, “This is tomorrow,”
but of course it never is tomorrow.
Tomorrow is always the day after today.
I’ve explained this over and over,
but he still doesn’t get it.
I met her from a dating club.
Vashti seemed amused and delighted
that someone was calling her,
didn’t mind if I was shorter than her,
wanted me to come to her apartment
instead of a neutral meeting place.
When I got there with Rusty, I learned why.
Vashti was wearing a back brace,
lying on a foam pad on the floor
in the middle of her living room.
On the wall were her watercolors
of Arcata wetlands.
She was a bellydancer and seamstress.
I wasn’t sure what to call myself,
but I gave her copies of my novels.
She really seemed to like Rusty,
said she worked at a preschool
before injuring her back.
After a while I felt funny
looking down at her on the floor,
so I lay down beside her to talk.
Later she said when I did this,
she really felt turned on.
We made love on our second date.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller