Whack the mattock into dirt, root, and rock
around a swordfern until it’s loose,
kick the shovel in here, here, and here,
get it out, carry it to its new hole,
water it well and hope it does okay.
I’m making room for a new room.
Boxes are conquering floor space
all over the house. I need shelves.
I looked everything over.
This is the only place left for another room.
I’m trying to be careful and kind
but there’s a lot of swordferns here.
I am awakened by yells,
cats growling, running upstairs,
room to room and back again.
It’s mating season.
Ella complains about litter box smells.
Her son, T.J., shrieks, chasing a cat.
I don’t think I’ll be allowed to sleep
any later this morning.
zip zoom zip
she’s growling too
neck ruff in mouth
hips over squatting legs
grr grr grr meeeaaoowww!
hiss growl roll
she’s on her back licking herself
looking happy sounding angry
You look so pretty,
red hair flowing over
your shoulders and back.
When we make love,
I want to hold you close,
feel all your skin with mine.
A big mass leaps from a sagebrush-covered ditch
on the opposite side of a two lane highway,
hits the passenger side of the hood
less than two feet from ten year old Rusty,
leaving a crushed hood, broken radiator,
and blood smell baking in the desert sun.
We have to hitchhike to the nearest town,
Hawthorne, Nevada, to call a tow truck,
to pull us to the yard of Woody’s Auto Body.
It’s Friday afternoon. We’re here till Monday.
At least Hawthorne has a cheap motel,
a pizza place, a library, a park,
and Rusty and I have our bicycles.
The Mineral County Museum, open on Saturday,
is filled with old typewriters, old bullets,
old ironing boards, old devices of obscure purpose,
stuffed local fauna, and skulls from New Mexico.
In the desert weeds and concrete slabs
of abandoned military houses,
all the lizards seem the same type,
rather like a fence lizard,
pale, dark, or speckled,
with a very long skinny tail
which they raise in the air while running.
Monday Night, we’re still here in Hawthorne.
The junkyard radiator came from Reno.
Tomorrow the shop will remove and replace.
This twilight’s beautiful, I guess,
kids in the park play basketball under bright lights.
The people here are friendly.
Venus is bright, low in the west,
a breeze blows from the east,
big dipper and pole star shine in the north.
Rusty climbs up the outside of a tube slide.
Cars drive slow on Armory Road.
The game ends and people leave the stands.
Rusty made me ride bicycles
all the way down to the lake,
even though it was too late to swim,
and I was tired from a long day.
Pedaling back up the slope
made me hot and sweaty again.
I sit at a picnic table,
fanning away the mosquitoes.
Rusty tried to install his headlight
by himself but lost the screw.
Now he’s riding his bike around
and around the campground loop.
The moon’s three quarters full.
Firefly beetles flying high
in the treetops make prolonged
green and blue arches of light.
The frogs are almost roaring,
as if croaking into microphones
with amplifiers turned up loud
to feedback and distortion.
My father’s telling me histories
behind various objects and photos.
This broken gold watch was lost
while plowing a field
and found again twenty years later.
This small watch belonged to his mother,
Maude Howard Miller,
and the big one to her mother.
My mom found this Indian arrowhead
in the back yard behind the barn.
I’m thinking I want to write down
these stories in detail,
but the black raspberries are ripe
and my father picks quart after quart,
with occasional help from Rusty.
There’s no more time for stories.
When we visit his brothers,
he tells them I picked several quarts,
though I didn’t actually
pick a single berry.
Rusty and I woke up this morning
at last to a clear blue sky,
and doubled back to see
the red lighthouse of Manistique,
this time walking all the way
out to it on the concrete jetty.
A sign warned of storms and waves,
but there’s only ripples today.
In yesterday’s drizzle, the lighthouse
seemed to be dark magenta,
the only color in a gray world,
but today it’s brilliant red,
contrasting with a rich blue sky
and even deeper blue water.
It’s made of riveted steel plates,
with a ruby red lens in the lantern.
The campground at Little Bass Lake
was swarming with biting flies,
so Rusty and I got on our bikes
to ride the trail to another lake.
The trails shown on the map were not
marked with signs, and so overgrown
with grass and bracken ferns that they
were hard to tell from old logging roads
or places some truck drove once or twice.
We went farther than I planned,
all the way to the Muleshoe Lakes.
Rusty really loved Little Muleshoe Lake.
I took some pictures of him swimming
with his khaki shirt like a reptile guy,
alternatively pretending to be
the “rustigator,” an intelligent reptile,
and the “professor,” its intended prey.
I think the professor outwitted
the rustigator enough to survive,
but he never exactly reached safety.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller