Three Poems

by Greg Miller

 

Native Element

The rinds of the walnut--
Blackened, rotting fruit--
Stink up the yard under
the canopy where they've fallen.

I stumble and fall, my long pants
Stained with their acrid ink.

He busts another one up
With the off-white rubber tip
of his cane, leaning on his crutch,
sending bits of black and a thump
against the wall of the shed.

Not that fall day when haze
Clung to the eaves of houses,
But some crisp June afternoon,
Skinny neighbor kids carrying
Inner-tubes on the sidewalk,
My quiet grandmother
With the star-broached bosom said
I should have seen her strong
young man, fast as a muskrat, swim
circles round the other men
and so I see him now
(though never then)
in a lake, near enough
to catch her look,
to make her stay, sun
on his surfacing shoulders.

 

 

Move On

Looking at me as if from out of a well,
she tells me there is nothing good in her life
to write about, so she has to write about Jesus.
She has the look of an animal used to being beaten,
trusting nothing but the swift stick of grace,
truth's only true sign.
                                Father Augustine
struggles for the raptures of our silences
into and out of which everything is always
falling, binding and unbinding within us
like the whir of the June bug under the pin
of the probing scientist suddenly gone silent.
It is as if the small lights of the intellect
dancing at night in the fields, random
and constantly shifting, moved in parody
of the fixed stars of heaven. It is not so.
The stretched skins of the scriptures keep us cool
in our journey through Babylon and Egypt.
We must pack up our tents with the ark
and in the cool light of the evening move on.

 

 

Landscape Artist

She comes to the kitchen in her red smock,
her feet bare on the cold floor, and she presses
her breasts to his back. She smells of dark tea,
milky, with her small morning syllables,
her lipstick on the lip of his cup.
And where, the night before, their clothes lay tangled
the second time, undoing their delays,
their slow, teased-out, sublunary desires
held, like stays, with the fullness of the body,
she turns to notice nothing out of order,
her hair held in a bun, her back to him,
his fingers, cold, fastening the snaps.
She muses what this is, this quiet lapse,
his inattentiveness. She lets it pass.

Her garden's potpourri, the orange peels
--a little pulp still under her thumbnail--
filling the room with other summer days,
he fumbles some, getting the last stay right,
the backyard maple flushed with the first fall fire.

He notices, as if for the first time,
the wood block by the mantle. The Japanese
wrapped fish or packages with wood block prints,
he had read once. The landscape artists saw
nothing but vulgar sentiments in them:
the Lantern Demon of Oiwa--the legs
of the warrior buckle backwards under him.
Yesterday, he tried all day to figure it,
what it is driving him out of his mind.

 

 

Greg Miller is professor of English at Millsaps College, Jackson, Mississippi.

Copyright 1999 by Greg Miller. All rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction authorized, provided that the poems are unmodified and this notice is included.