Deep brown back and fire orange below,
tiny hands and feet spread wide,
a stream’s water child suggesting
common embryonic dreams.
I wanted to find a place where Mary and I
could live together without obnoxious roommates.
We found a beautiful cabin in the Sierras
but it was rented by the time we agreed to take it.
I wanted to look for somewhere else to live.
She called our search, “the trip,” as if we
were just taking some sort of vacation,
but she quit her job, moved out of her room,
withdrew money from the bank.
We drove the van to campgrounds in wild places,
the Klamath River with gold miners and ticks,
near Mount Shasta with deer and snow,
in the mountains near the Oregon coast
where we found an orgy of yellow spotted millipedes
slowly walking around in coupled pairs.
Somehow we ended up and down
the twisty ridgecrest roads of Humboldt County,
where we met someone who let us park
on his meadow while we looked for a place.
We didn’t find anywhere to rent,
but there was a house for sale in Redway,
fixer-upper, cheap, a good investment.
The money my parents saved for my college
but didn’t spend was more than enough.
Mary and I worked together,
doing what we could to make it beautiful.
A silvery blue glimmer
beats the air with rustling
mosaic cellophane wings.
Two myriad facets each
scan the wavering flight
of small flies over the mirror.
With hummingbird’s agility
it wills itself through space,
dangling six clutching legs
from the muscular thorax
of its iridescent trunk.
It may have spent three summers
growing in weed-choked water
before unfurling its flight.
A motivated image
sparkles at the sun’s fingers.
Two sets of angled biplane wings,
two pairs of turquoise eyes.
He’s perched on an upright stem.
His tail holds her delicate neck,
her body doubled, following.
They dance together carefully,
his abdomen held straight,
the ashen velvet arch of hers,
pushing, quivering, pumping
her urge of eggs into the stem,
leaving a row of pinprick scars.
Desire dimmed by evening’s cool,
he lets go and flies away.
She empties her thinning body
as twirling leaves slip from the sky.
Heavy wings force the gale;
quills rattle on the upstroke.
It seems both strong and fragile
veering madly between swells,
forced into tilted circles.
Wings folded, legs spread, it dives,
feels the film of impact tear,
silver squirming in its pouch,
the film once more, sunlight, wind,
a restless rolling surface.
Your body warm like a river,
melting softly around me,
swirling consciousness of skin,
sunshine and a soft breeze,
total immersion of sleep.
I bought this house for both of us.
We struggled with the termites,
painted the walls and ceilings,
covered floors with carpet samples.
Now that we’re almost finished,
you say you’re getting a job
as a nurse’s aide and moving out.
I’m trying to control my feelings.
Grief, disappointment, anger,
will drive you farther away, I think.
In a parody of post-modern drama,
I’m reading aloud lists of words
that begin with “un-” from a dictionary—
“unabashed, unabated, unable,
unabridged, unaccented, unacceptable,
until you make me shut up.
It’s hard to make love with you
without trembling into tears.
I don’t know why you want me now.
I’m rewriting poems about
pelicans and dragonflies,
writing letters to friends from Cleveland,
walking the streets of Redway alone
after midnight, listening to crickets,
looking up at the marbled clouds
that veil the gibbous moon.
I saw your home the first time
deep in fog after midnight.
We scattered the symbols
of our lives around the room.
You came out in your nightgown
and I had to embrace you.
We fell into another world,
spun from your slow swaying.
The candles glimmered.
Your mouth melted like petals
of an opening flower,
easily against my face.
We walk between etchings of oak,
shuffling over a snowy hill,
looking back at winter’s open sky.
Our hands clasp.
We kiss, as if children discovering.
Sunlight filtering through your brown hair
sets its rippled edge aglow
and darkens your suddenly beautiful eyes.
He stares across the room at me,
perhaps shocked, unsure how or if
to respond to what I’m trying to say.
I feel the pressure of his stare,
every second of silence more tense,
every sentence too brief. I can’t respond.
His face has turned to marble,
as if I have the gorgon’s curse,
my curled hair transformed to worms,
my smile changed to something cruel.
copyright © 1974 - 2005 Carl Miller
Drawing, “Needle Rock”: 2004, gel pen on paper, 6 x 10 inches.