In the depth of night, I can’t sleep.
The fire in the stove somehow casts
a ghostly blue flicker on the ceiling.
Rain patters. The creek rumbles.
Restless thoughts won’t shut up
to let me settle toward oblivion.
Tomorrow morning looms large and early:
an alarm, breakfast in the cold,
a long drive to Rusty’s high school.
Tonight I’m filled with energy and life.
I have to waste this, shut down,
and wake up dreary an hour before dawn.
I’m running out of family.
Ella’s moved in with her boyfriend.
Rusty’s almost grown up.
I don’t know what he’s planning.
I’m seeing less and less of Nancy.
Every time I try to see her more,
it’s, “Do this, buy that, change
the cat box, everything hurts.”
She always wanted me to work harder
but I’m less inclined than ever.
In my room, the woodstove hot,
my love is nude, packed on pillows
to ease the pain in her back and leg,
She hands me her hair clip and glasses,
long red hair fanned over pillows,
small breasts shaped like a young woman.
Janis Joplin singing with Big Brother,
not hard to pretend I’m in the sixties
with my groovy chick to dig on love.
For a while forget that she’s so hurt,
barely able to walk with a cane,
just kiss her here, here, and here.
“I want you,” she says, we’re in and out,
Janis singing “Ball and Chain”
to fierce guitar chord beats.
She wants to roll over, be on top,
but we nearly fall off the bed,
stopped by me grabbing her grab bar.
Sensations follow laughter,
but she can’t sit on me very long.
Somehow we have to roll back again.
A soggy meadow with Monterrey cypress,
a bench on the edge of Arcata Bay.
Low tide mud with speckles of bright green,
dull brown shorebirds moving slowly.
Distant posts and beams of Samoa Bridge,
microscopic cars and bug-sized trucks.
Toward Eureka, hills and mountains vague
in silvery haze behind the bridge.
The new water tower under an orange tent,
protecting wet paint from winter rain.
Steady roar of traffic on Samoa Road,
harsher, louder cries of arguing gulls.
Two fishing boats near the horizon.
Not much else but clouds, waves, sand,
slightly blue, slightly green, slightly brown,
all very close to the same gray.
A fourth color, the dune grass,
is a little bit greener than the sand.
I’m sitting in bed, listening to the clock
and the rushing creek below the house.
Why do analog clocks always tick?
I’ve already written this poem several times,
but here I am, living it again.
I don’t have any Great Works to finish.
I guess I should turn my eye and hand
toward improving the condition of my house,
dirt and disorder defying description.
I don’t know what I have or where it is.
Shayla’s dead. I just found out
a year and a half after the fact
while nosing around the internet
looking for traces of old friends.
I don’t know how she died,
but the memorial instructions
suggest she was expecting this.
She was always so afraid of death.
She thought she would die young.
She died on her 62nd birthday.
Her obituary says she was known
for making tiedyed clothes
and helping Mexican immigrants.
When we were lovers, she talked a lot
about living in rural Mexico
with her yellow hair dyed black.
I spent so much time with her,
loved her so much, or just a little,
while she loved me a little, or so much.
She made me laugh, she made me cry.
I hope I’ve caught some likeness of her,
of us together, in my poems.
I need something, not sure what.
No matter what I want to say,
my family doesn’t take seriously
if they notice me at all.
My efforts to contact people
I used to know fall flat,
a couple emails followed by silence.
Guess I need to meet people
who are into what I’m into,
which would be what, exactly?
Nothing like suggesting
awkward social interaction
to send me fleeing back toward
my drawing table or computer.
Bumping up the last hill
shortly after midnight,
my sudden headlights show
a doe and mottled fawn
no bigger than a cat,
trying to find its feet.
The doe dithers between
protecting and bolting,
urging the fawn across,
smallest I’ve ever seen.
copyright © 2005, 2009 Carl Miller
Drawing, “Whitmore Grove”: 1982, colored pencil on strathmore paper, 12 x 18 inches, detail 9 x 12 inches.