Carl Miller poems
page 9

Winter and Spring, 1971

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Act One

No script, no lines, no plot
except for me walking
in and out of the spotlights
of an empty parking lot
smooth with newfallen snow.

Mary and I Sat on the Bench

The fountain sparkled in the winter sun.
Her brown fur coat was beautiful as ever,
but my denim jacket was wearing thin.
An old man sat on the opposite bench,
with his newspaper and his dream.

Our dream was gone, a silent flying bird
over the ember flecks on the lagoon.
Mary’s voice was bitter, mine drained of hope.
We sat together at the end of a world,
no longer looking at each other’s eyes.

Ashtabula County

The clouds were a dome
separated from the hills
by a stripe of blue.

Laura and I were somewhere
in Ashtabula County.

Driving east, we talked,
looked for signs of early spring,
crows in a cornfield.

My father and mother knew
a world like the barns we passed.

A hawk gliding high,
dark feathers against the clouds,
swoops toward the bare trees.

I tried to find Laura’s love
in our words, in what we saw.

She said she had to
go home, so we didn’t share
the bright rose sunset.


I sat and sat and sat
and listened until I find
I can’t hear you anymore.
I’m sorry.
For a while it was fun
counting stars, counting flies,
but I find instead
of knowing a star or a fly,
I merely count, describe, measure,
and write about it
and write and write until
I can’t remember my name.
Can you? I think you can—
maybe even my face
and the muddled mind
hidden behind it.

“He was such a good student.
I really don’t understand
what happened to him.”

You taught me I must be free.
I walked out in the sunshine
and discovered
a whole new world.

The Willow Tree

The willow tree is a poem
hanging before sunset
when sun and sky are gold,
its trunk deeply sculpted
with forms of flame and shadow,
twisted and tormented but veiled
by hanging strands of beads.
It is too early in the year for leaves.
The sun fades into clouds.
The air gets colder. My thoughts fade.

Redwinged Blackbird

I took my life
and wrote it all down
and showed it to
a critic
and he said, “Well,
there’s some parts
of it that seem
interesting, but most
of it—well I just
don’t think people
can identify
with that sort
of life anymore.”
So I left
some parts out.
What was left
was a redwinged blackbird
over the lagoon.

The Young Willow

The young willow curves
like waterfalls, so gentle.
Its branches spread
wide like fingers.

Another tree became
a willow this week.
It always was a willow,
but it kept the secret well
until its leaves whispered
in the wind, “I am a willow.”

More and more trees
are saying that now,
as every thought
becomes a willow.


rustles the leaves.
It’s late afternoon.
The woods are dark,
and all one shade of green.
We’re strangers,

to ignore each other,
but watching.

I walk out.
It’s cloudy and the field
is surrounded by houses.
The rustle fades
into traffic

and sky

Mentor Marsh

I love you like the mist over marsh,
the cold colors that fireflies flash
when a moment becomes eternal,
like the lowest note of a church’s organ.

I love you like the water, very black,
that smothers the roots of trees
where dark things swim unseen
beneath the haze of the pale moon.

I love you like the fire that fades,
smoke reddened sun and scavenging herons
where the dead trees stand naked,
and the organ plays so deep you can only feel it.

copyright © 1971 - 2005 Carl Miller

Painting, “Willow”: 2004, acrylic on canvasboard, 11 x 14 inches.

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