Rusty’s science project,
the sauropod head restorations,
is due on Monday.
T.J.’s here, his mother, Ella, isn’t.
I have to keep him from distracting Rusty.
Here comes Nancy,
endlessly playing “Diablo,”
a sword and sorcery computer game
where you fight skeletons and demons
in basements and caves under the cathedral,
all the way down to hell.
She keeps needing help.
Rusty would rather help her
than write about Sauropod heads.
When my iMac changes sound to pictures,
drumbeats become little triangles
that I can select and move
to align them with guitar rhythms.
When picture changes back to sound,
the drumming is tight.
What looks better, sounds better.
I’m changing time to space and back again.
The ones and zeros in my iMac mimic
Einstein’s relativity in music.
With a voice like a jazz woman
singing silky with a big band,
she’s reading an occasional poem,
placing words like gems on velvet
or flowers in a painted vase.
Last night at the poetry reading,
I read short poems about winter rain.
This morning I woke to rain like the poems.
I was going to water the garden today.
I’m using the big sprinkler.
Forget about burning that pile of brush.
This is a good day to play inside.
Some brush piles roar into flame
with just a match and couple wads of paper.
Some won’t burn unless I take them apart
and move them branch by branch
to a fire already blazing hot.
Rusty’s wearing three year old sandals,
his toes growing over the front rim.
Where’s the one and a half year old sandals?
He found only one on the floor of his room.
The other’s kicked under the bed, I guess.
Here there’s cardboard boxes filled with toys,
rolls of dust stuck to scattered legos,
k’nex, tinker toys, little cars and balls.
This is even worse than I imagined.
I clean enough to prove the sandal’s absence.
Rusty finds it in the living room,
behind the couch. Now how did it get there?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look good.
I don’t think I can mend this ripped leather.
Rusty’s still wearing three year old sandals.
There’s no one here to meet me
when I get off the plane
at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.
I can’t think of any way
to get to Sharon Center
but the airport limousine.
The driver tells me how much
she likes the country buildings
on the circle at the crossroads.
For the week of spring vacation
I’m at my parents’ house
claiming pieces of their lives.
I go through my mom’s paintings,
closets filled with bedding,
bookcases filled with books.
I go to the lawyer’s office,
go to the family graves,
go to the supermarket.
Cardboard boxes labeled,
“Eggs, Keep Refrigerated,”
fill with aging treasures.
Sophia Throne married James Bowes
but had no children.
My mother was a favorite niece.
She’d know some of the people in these photographs,
what they meant to Jim and Sophie,
but she’s five years dead.
Sophie seemed very proud of someone named Kent.
There’s a new clipping about his success.
I don’t have time right now to figure this out.
Who am I to have custody of her life,
or what little remains of it now?
Jim’s money enriched my mom, and eventually me.
I guess I can be a Sophia Bowes Museum.
It’s less than a cubic foot of stuff.
Somehow this makes me feel very sad.
My father gave me custody
of his grandfather’s wedding certificate.
Joseph H. Miller of Sharon Township
married Rebecca E. Reimer of Norton,
on December 20, 1877,
in Wadsworth, Medina County, Ohio.
There’s small photos of them both
and one of J. H. Smith, pastor.
Joe looks handsome and dapper
with his little mustache.
Becky looks like she’d be quite a babe,
smiling with her hair let down.
The preacher with his bushy beard looks like
a young Noah or Ulysses Grant.
Was it snowing outside the church that day?
Did they stay somewhere in Wadsworth
that night or go straight home?
Were they excited or embarrassed
discovering each other in their bed?
So much human life goes undescribed.
I have only this certificate
and what I imagine it might mean.
A tombstone of red granite,
sandblasted with a pattern of pansies
designed by my mother,
others like headboards and chess pieces,
arranged in rows and clusters,
bare trees of winter, grass of new spring,
all this I photograph before I leave
the graveyard by the railroad track.
In April 2001, I’m driving
my dad’s big yellow Buick,
licensed through January 2000.
I guess he was planning to sell it.
I couldn’t get the other Buick started.
My sister said she took the stuff she wanted,
I’m taking what I can use,
what’s meaningful to me,
what I was given or asked to keep safe.
The cardboard boxes are full.
The Ryder truck is rented.
I’m ready to go tomorrow.
My dad’s jacket and cap still hang
on the railing of the basement stairs,
where he always left them when
he finished working in the yard.
A few daffodils and narcissus bloom
between the lawn and the garden plot
he would have plowed a month ago.
What I leave behind gets auctioned,
the house gets sold.
I live three thousand miles away.
I may never see this place again.
The cherry dresser was hardest to load.
In a house still immaculate despite
being unoccupied a third of a year,
the corner behind this dresser was moldy.
The wood had rotted enough to break when
I moved it after taking out the drawers.
I figured I could fix and reinforce
the broken leg when I got it home.
The truck was much bigger than I needed,
furniture and boxes only half-filled it.
I was alarmed by what the gasoline cost
from Columbus to Indianapolis.
To save what I could, I avoided tolls
and slept in the front seat at Truck stops.
Beside big semi trucks, my rig was small.
In Kansas, truckers started talking about
both Interstate Seventy and Eighty
being closed by a blizzard in the Rockies.
I turned south, through Oklahoma and
the Texas panhandle to Tucumcari,
which by the mileage count, turned out to be
midway between Sharon Center and Briceland.
I went to a natural history museum there,
which had a Torvosaurus skeleton
bigger than the one at Brigham Young.
It had a bigger head with longer teeth
and shorter, stouter legs than Allosaurus.
It made me feel normal and elated.
I wished Rusty was with me to see it.
Snow was falling on the mountain passes
between Albuquerque and Flagstaff,
but I didn’t need to go farther south.
I took the state highway to Bakersfield
and headed north through the Central Valley.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller