Carl Miller poems
page 76

July - December 2003

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Late July

Even in the shade
of a millennium-old
redwood, it’s still hot.

August Creek

A steady trickle
over gravel between rocks
into little pools.

Sitting on a rock, cooling my feet.
That month of rain in April left this gift,
fresh cold water flowing in late August.

A small fish, olive green and gold,
swims a reconnaissance pattern,
nips at something on the surface,
hard to see against the bottom,
shelters under floating yellow bay leaves.

Bigger brown fish shoot
like missiles for the shadows.
The bigger they are, the more shy.
Bold ones get picked off when they are small.

Turtle Quest

Rusty comes to me, out of breath.
“Come and look! I found a turtle.”
I’ve never seen a turtle in our creek.

I follow Rusty upstream,
over boulders, around logs, over logs,
past the mudslide near the alder.

“He was right here,” Rusty says.
It doesn’t seem like a turtle
would have enough time to get very far.

We look at every hiding place
either one of us can find,
but the turtle is somewhere else.


I put the chainsaws inside, no firewood today.
The gray morning gets darker, threatening.
I think I hear a rumble in the distance.

Now I’m definitely hearing thunder.
The roof vent turbine squeals like a strange bird.
The wind rises, cold. Something’s about to happen.

The sky’s so dark I need the propane light.
I hear roaring wind, but the branches aren’t moving yet.
The thunder has that rolling sound
of Rip Van Winkle’s dwarves bowling in the sky.

I hear a fractal scatter of taps on the roof.
Here it comes! Rain gets heavier,
constant rumbling of bowling balls.
I just saw lightning flash the scene.
A crack of cannon echoes off the mountains.

The first strings of water fall from the valleys of my roof.
Long rolls of thunder get loud and fade slowly.
A double flash, brighter, then a crackle boom.

Strange White Clouds

While I’m driving Rusty home from high school
the day after the thunderstorm, he sees
a strange white cloud like a flying saucer
over the ridge east of the river valley.

Around the bend, a small white thunderhead
beneath the saucer comes into our view.
There’s a second one, eerie and evil,
two mushroom clouds wearing big sombreros.
I’m thinking smoke, but I don’t see it rising.

There’s a third one south of Briceland Road,
with orange flickers below and upward shimmers.
These things are definitely smoke from fires.

From home I call the Department of Forestry.
They already know about all three of them.

Whitmore Grove Deer

Crossing a dirt road
in the redwoods silently,
a doe and two fawns.

Russian River Revisited

Rusty and I went south today
to escape the forest fire smoke,
ended up at the mouth of the Russian River.

Twenty years ago, a cloudy day,
I was here trying to cheer up a lover.
A sunny day now and I’m the one
who’s mopey and philosophical.

“Knowledge, or nature?” Rusty asked
when I was divided between
Davis Library and Sonoma Beach.

“All knowledge comes from nature,” I replied,
so here I am watching pelicans but
craving stipple drawings of fossil skulls.

We walk the river edge to the mouth,
where gulls gather on the pebble beach,
more gulls and pelicans swim the river.
Two seals in the surf keep following us.

Rusty’s swordfighting imaginary foes
with sticks of driftwood.
It’s weird watching him play on the beach,
so close to becoming a man.

Last Sunday Evening

I want to write about making love
with Nancy last Sunday evening.
I’m not sure what was different,
but we really touched each other.

I talked about how she and Rusty
don’t understand my need to pause
and do nothing, not exactly laziness,
a zen like need for empty space.

I was pulling mint from the beds
of grape hyacinths while she watched,
the reverse of how it used to be,
but she’s still injured from that fall.

“On the plains of hesitation . . .”
someone rested and died.
Nancy always has this on her wall.
I don’t understand what it means to her.

In my bedroom she got undressed
before realizing she needed the outhouse,
and then we closely connected.
I should have written this sooner.

Can’t Deal With Nancy

I can’t deal with Nancy now.
I just spent six hours doing little
but whatever she wanted me to do
and it wasn’t enough.

I have to take Nancy
to the woman’s doctor today,
the neurologist tomorrow,
and I don’t remember
how it goes from there
but I know there’s a lot more.

Nancy’s again gone from lover to problem,
but she’s a different kind of problem now.
She’ll never sleep in my bed again.
I could roll over and crush her or something.
I don’t think she’s ever getting better.
I just wish she’d stop getting worse.

Garberville Twilight

Silhouetted redwoods near
the Sherwood Forest Motel,
trucks with headlights on or off,
a man mumbling to his cell phone,
pink streak of an airline trail
scratched across a purpling sky.
I’m waiting for a poetry reading.

Smelling restaurant food,
wheat, onion, garlic, pepper,
waters my mouth.
Deepening blue sky shades to
horizon’s yellow-green-gray.
The gas station across the street
just turned on its lights.

Negative Virtues of Hellenistic Philosophers

Aponia, no pain.
Alypia, no grief.
Akataplexia, no upset.
Ataraxia, no disturbance.
Apragmosyne, detachment from mundane matters.
Apathia, avoiding emotions.

All to achieve galenismos,
the tranquility of a calm sea.

In other words,
they didn’t want to deal with it!

Doing This Again

Another day, another waiting room.
Nancy’s reading a magazine.
The soundtrack is a muzak version
of Barbra Streisand’s “People who need people.”

Another couple, slightly older than us,
is looking at their old x-rays.
The woman keeps taking them out,
pointing at stuff and quietly making comments.

Outside, someone’s mowing grass.
That’s the schmaltziest version
of “Mack the Knife” I’ve ever heard!
I hate these doctors and their waiting rooms.

copyright © 2005 Carl Miller

Drawing, “Hoka Hey Creek”: 1984, ballpoint in notebook, 5 x 7 inches, detail 3 x 5 inches.

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