went to Mary’s room
last night. We
talked for seven
wanted to touch her
but I didn’t.
Sky and ground shared a canvas of white,
where we walked, two soon-to-be lovers,
on a coldcrackling day past Valentine’s.
Stepping out onto a frozen Lake Erie,
we trusted the winter’s foundations.
The sun was pale and vague, shadows gone,
no features but a smooth rise of beach
with buried fences and a few bare trees
to remind us that life had once been,
becoming reduced and blurred behind us.
Slowly this drew us closer together—
being human, small dark souls
in a pale vastness of wintery death.
You’re a woman of twenty six.
I’m just twenty, becoming a man.
In a grove of pines we whisper
about the beauty of moonlit snow,
and lacelike shadows on our faces.
“I’m getting cold,” you say.
“I’ll keep you warm,” I reply,
embracing you. “You can trust me.”
I’m saying what I ought to say,
but your response surprises me.
“You can trust me,” you repeat.
“No man ever told me that before.”
Not even lying? That seems strange,
but what really has me stirred up
is that you consider me a man.
dark and deep and very still
footprints on the snowy road
pines tall above
you in your grandmother’s fur coat
me in fleece-lined denim
holding each other close
in speckled moonlight
Floating on a couch
with you in my arms,
your long dark hair
spilling over the pillow,
deep blue moonlight
from the snowy yard
touching your smile.
On our second Sunday together,
Mary went for a ride with me
along the Cuyahoga River.
I was collecting more water samples
for my undergraduate research.
Like art critics we judged
the aesthetics of farms and small towns,
the architecture of Akron’s bridges.
In twilight we drove Canal Road,
after dark, the Cleveland flats,
narrow streets beside the river,
high level bridges far above.
An abandoned stove in snowy weeds
seemed poignant to Mary.
“A stove should be warm,” she said.
The river banks were lined with iron,
bald tires scattered in the mud,
warehouses with sentry lights,
trucks lined up at loading docks,
shifting silver clouds and full moon.
Homework in the library,
no space in my mind
for astronomical events,
but on my green vinyl notebook
a row of little suns, projected
through pinholes formed
by foliage and venetian blinds,
is partly blocked out by little moons.
You said love
is a tree
a long time
is an open field
in the sunlight.
is blown down
by the storm
the flowers live on
year after year
Mary and I had too many worries—
comprehensive examinations, draft boards,
how to plan our lives when our country
didn’t want to let us have lives.
In her attic apartment
we took off our shirts and cuddled
on her little bed while Steve Stills sang
“Pretty girl, why not love me,” and
“I’m four days gone into running.”
Mary was worried about fascism,
thought the socialists might have an answer.
She could be serious and bitter.
I tried to show her lightness and love
but made mistakes of inexperience.
I wrote a poem affirming our sudden love,
“an open field of wildflowers
always alive and beautiful.”
She smiled, shook her head, and told me,
“I just see you loving many people.”
Don’t tell me I can’t be the way I am.
I am the way I am.
I’m no more messed up than you are.
You just don’t show it.
is a pain
in the neck.
I ignore it
the bus gears down
plunges into fog
white letters on a cliff
Jesus Saves—Seek Ye The Lord
the town sudden and vague
homes with peeling paint
a market out of business
broken window warehouses
over spilling reflections
silver around the dock
splashes melting to stillness
hint of flow beyond
welded to the sky
long low shadows
barges creaking with rust
slide overlap answer
the foghorn’s piercing groan
with muffled bells
Life has many meanings
and I’m afraid today
I’ve forgotten most of them
but the thought of your smile
copyright © 1970 - 2008 Carl Miller
Drawing, “Detroit Superior Bridge”: 2004, gel pen on paper, 6 x 10 inches.