Saturday, February 25, 2012

David Smith on the Roof

David Smith, Cubi XXVI

On the roof of the Met
burnished steel cubes,
cylinders, rectangles
and ellipsoids
and tumble playfully
from the spirit of the artist
dead since '65. There's soul
in these abstracts that verge
on the functional
and defy gravity
as they jut into the hazy city's
and glass geometry.

We stray from chamber
music on the marble
and limestone balcony to the park
where rats
scamper from reservoir banks
and rustle green bushes.

We greet the litany of cab horns
and the soft pounding of sneakers
as they inscribe a charmed
circle of health. In this black
sky where stars barely shine,
we find only ourselves and desire,
and a harmony with the great soul

whose millions thrive on striking back
the demons at the edge of the circle,
and who go on to die in peace
at knowing the city
could claim only so much of them--
time and muscle, grit and grief.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David. All rights reserved.

Note: I wrote this unpublished poem in 1999. I submitted it as part of a poetry prompt at poetry prompt on sculpture.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Desire Skeleton

The mountains are heroes watching mean streets.
They invite us thru blue doors that meet earth and trails that end in stars.

At the restaurant, my daughter
hands me a receipt, "you owe me for when you weren't
there and I needed you," she says.
I call it intervention because of her drinking.
She calls it a free breakfast with a .45 on her tongue.

I want to live inside a snowflake and dream in hexagonal
videos that teach me the cold logic of life.

In the winter air sirens scream on the road.
In the desert snow an owl disembowels a rabbit.

She writes: "Words are loose ends strung along
a line of disease and cure, passion and ennui.
The game of chance ends in silence."

At the core of who I am sits a worm
that would eat a hole in the heart of the world.

Half-lives and bad dreams play shadow puppets
at the edge of dead volcanoes in the west of the city.
Red rocks hibernate in mud and in Spring
will open a gate to below where the world began.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Motor Cycle

for Dave Dikitolia

At 200 miles per hour,
the corporate grind
becomes fluid, a snake skin
sloughed from the moment
and vaporized in the tail pipe.

Some might say you're
running from ghosts
or loneliness and shame.
But you don't want vanishing
points, as much as speed
of light to cross over
that line, forgive the ghosts
and come back
in one piece.

Some might even say you
want to die, but that's a
friend too well known--
mother of cancer--
brother crashed on a
highway of no return--
and father, father of death
itself, tearing out your guts
with a shotgun in his mouth.

At 200 miles per hour,
you know death
is not fate but a chance
to beat the odds, the time
when mistakes aren't
the end, but a day to work
and make it all right again.

At 200 miles per hour, the road
is a razor that'll cut you in half
with just an engine and inertia
pulling you into yourself, and
you feel free of gravity.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Crows ca. 2001

Waiting for the phone to ring
from someone who'll hire me
or my lover who hung up on me
last night, I walk to the store
to buy aspirin for my head.

I smoked too many cigars
reading the newspapers
and worrying the crossword puzzle.
The Spring sun melts snow drifts
and rivers gush down the street,
undercutting dirty snow and ice
and funneling into sewer grates
and manhole covers. In the driveway

at the gasamat, a man
in a Vikings jacket
stands beside his bike, oblivious
to me. I'm ready to avert my eyes
if he looks but he doesn't,
attending to nothing
in particular that I can see.
He's Indian, maybe homeless.

I buy bottled tea
in the store and Rolaids.
They don't have the big
bottle of aspirin I need.

He's still there when I leave,
and he looks up this time when I step on
the plastic insides of a cookie bag.
When I turn the corner
onto the street he caws
and laughs like a crow. Then I hear
them all around me rattling the air,
and I think how I heard them at dawn
before the sun came through
the window. I'm happy I saw him.

The trickster
is always the first
to sound a raucous rattle
at anxiety, and make
us laugh at vanity
and the farce of security.

(c) 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

submitted as part of a prompt at

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Migrating Hawks

The street to the hill we would climb
ran past highways and suburban homes,
those tract houses that look so oddly
alien built on volcanic rock,
in among cholla flowers and sage.
Not adobe that grows like a warm
red mold and melts in rain and wind and time.

The Pueblos will not rebuild an adobe
of the ancient ones or the sacred shrines.
They let the windows, door and walls
crumble to broken-toothed gums.
We are strangers in this world, they say.
Let earth have back what we find in her.

The trail to the hawk banding station
stopped at the end of the street like a dead
end without reason or a sentence
that ends in new awareness. That new sense
of things grew as I climbed the trail,
in the place of no human building,
beyond the city and its chaos promising freedom,
above the fields swollen with new melons.

I was one among the many below the ridge
who came to witness hawk flight north
from Mexico straight up the Rockies.
One of the alienated seeking
redemption in the experience of nature
or simply finding a way to give the kids
a day out of the house and in the air.

The banders descended from the ridge
like prophets with tablets of fire.
The word they promised was not
in their heads or spoken with the lips.
The word lay wrapped in cloth
like a mummy in their tight grip.
It was the bird of the sun, a sign
held in reverence for its wild desire.

It was chance or fate that led me to handle the hawk.
I did not wish to grasp its otherness like
a thing from the shelf. I held him by the legs
so the razor-sharp talons could not clench skin.
The desire to fly filled him with rage and he spread his wings.
We stared at each other, uncomprehending,
I knowing that it did not belong there,
its home a world closed to me.
Home to which return was more
than desire or hunger or path to an end.
His truth more than knowledge or the curious
desire of science might reveal.
Known only to whirlwind and whispers.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All poem rights reserved.

Photo (c) 2012 Reena Walkling

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Sister’s Testament

I cried the night
he died and was put
behind the rock. I
who once threw stones
at him in childish anger
playing in mud.
He was always there
when the boys caught
me alone in the alleys
and put their hands on me.
They feared his strength.
But I loved his kindness,
and how he treated me
more than what they said,
a stupid girl with ideas.

I ran to the marketplace
but was held back the time
they stoned
and went to hurl
him from a cliff.
I saw him walk unhurt
through the furnace
of their anger
and their beards
ate dust. When he left
for the desert,
I could not go.

I heard stories
of healing the sick and dying.
Hard to believe stories.
When he came back
with those who followed,
he spoke in the synagogue.
You are free, he said,
God the protector
of widows and orphans
is alive and among you.

Spittle flew in the air
from the teeth of the elders
and those who read Torah.
They said he had no authority
to speak about God.
Our mother and brothers
begged him for silence
and to return home with them.
You have a demon, they said.

What did they hear in that voice
to fear? I was not afraid.
His eyes drained me like oil
from the lamp, and when
the oil returned, a new flame burned
where the old one had flared.

What he asked was not possible,
but his eyes of mercy
took the burning
shame from my face
and sorrow from my fingers.
I followed to Jerusalem
and saw how the stories were true.
What he did for the outcast.
The coughs and groans of the sick
did not grate my ears. The sick
and dying looked into my eyes
and their faces glowed
like sunset, those I once
would have seen as old men
and women to pity or despise
for their weakness.

I will not repeat
what you have heard.
Before they killed him
like a thief,
I washed his feet and hands
with oil and tears
and wiped them dry with my hair.

Each day I pray in the Temple,
pray for the evil to end.
We feed and help the poor and the widows,
poor and rich, dead and alive,
brother and sister, there is no difference.
From a Father who loves even the hateful
and diseased and brings hope for
the despised, the outcast, any who fear
death from the strong
or the hand of the violent,
he has risen like a song
from winter trees
on a morning after sorrow.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Of the Day

I live at the fuzzy edge of words,
anxious but alive in silence.
What I can't say stands bundled
in gaudy, hand me down pants,
hungry like a poor immigrant,
ironic, cold, and thirsty for truth.

From anonymity I'll send out
my coordinates to be found,
but only naked. My fate launched
by the stars, I'll break loose
of dead end streets and scrawl
graffiti for faceless others
to read and walk into tomorrow.

A hazy sun melts into gold
and umber which trees dip
their bony brushes into
and paint the moon a missal of joy.

Bring me to what can't be bought
with a hardened heart,
to the gift that sits in the sun,
crack winged, broken beaked
flying free through a pane reflecting light.

Sun drips dew drops from the roof
to let me know that I am of the day.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day 1985

The photograph comes,
and I glue it
to the galley sheet.
No story follows,
just an empty canister
in the pneumatic tube.
The letters
X and V and E
sometimes appear,
and a newsreel
with trees
and empty space with sun.
Your nakedness gestures
from the dirt like a worm
sliced in half
on the street
by a shoe.
Who are you?

Months after
this nightmare
I saw your face
in the glass
at the bar
where the criminals
play chess
and mix tea
with synthehol.
I thought
you might know me,
but you looked
into my eyes
and turned away blankly.
The drink at the bar
didn't stop
my hands from shaking.
That wasn't you.
It wore
the red sash
of the elite,
Party soldier.
I'll go to
the thought police
and confess
this crime of words
I should not think
and beg them to fix me.

They'll incinerate
from my mind
your picture
with no headline
whose existence
means death
and desire
that subvert
the state.
In that room I love,
they'll make me right
as the rat gnaws my eyes.
and those words
I cannot think
will rot like skin
and you'll go back
to being what you are:
ghost of a past
that never was.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Apothegms Found in a Bottle at Lake Nowhere

Too much remains left unsaid
when confusion rains defeat;
too many words pregnant with their own
denial, dramas planted with the seeds
of their own hubris. Seek what gives
without motive of return or repayment;
find the brass that garners honest self-regard;
hear the music that planets sing in space.

No word defines itself; no act is left
undone without recourse.
Shelter the genius born in the light
of your own sight; relive the race
whose time is yours, but do not doubt
that you are you and always alone.

Never lose what should not be lost.
Seek what might never be found.
Trust the passion that is the fruit
of its own success. Fear no sin
but never fear regret. Find what
forgiveness atones; fear no evil
but the one that inspires no fear.

There is no truth but truth;
it does not exist but is.
Attack certainty with the uncertain fact;
attack the uncertain fact with faith and act.
Undermine finality with a cynic’s grin;
distrust the cynic’s reserve with love.

Love brings its own discord, yet sets
you on the pilgrimage to peace.
Forego no dishonor or contempt
when you know that love is true;
find its proof in the silence it brings
to unrest and gibbering curiosity.

There’s a price you pay when you doubt;
it steals your strength and lies without shame.
To doubt and tremble are not the same
as to doubt it all and build all you are on that.
A home will shake when earthquakes hit,
Yet doubt for its own sake is a house
built on sand and tumbles to ruin in wind.

Do not misjudge the will to lie to and decieve
yourself. It is the animal in the human
to run from its own face in the glass.

The terror of awareness reveals
that there’s more to life than what the herd
believes. Never lose a true friend, but never
lose yourself to a friend’s desire to lose
themselves in you. A friend is a mirror
in which you should see more than just you.

There is wisdom to be sought in the street;
the self-reliant stance that comes with a fight,
the courage when to run or to stand.
But the hangman’s noose in the hand
of the crowd is stark testament
to the deceit that comes when a mind
is one but has no thought.

Death comes in many disguises and shapes;
do not be deceived in life to live a false death.
If spirit can open the hardest fist to a caress,
why not the steely will geared to destroy?

Hate yourself as much as your enemy;
love yourself as much as your enemy.
There’s a love that relies on no account
that you can give; it forgives all
and it asks for all; give it your love and life,
and find in it the love that will always abide.

Hair and fingernails grow in the grave.
Who knows about the light in the eye.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reservef.


Posted for An Mayou (@perlygates)
for @dversepoets Poetics night

a small bullet hole
where the magic seeps in
when no one is looking this way

(c) copyright 2012 An Mayou. All rights reserved.

Saying Goodbye Again

Posted for Robin Smith (@artistrobin)
as an entry for @dversepoets Poetics night

I sit on the front porch in the chair she liked,
the winter sun warm on my face and her wind chime
talks to me until her call.
Cows she came to know graze
The fence line eavesdropping.  
The daughters say she won't recover enough to go to hospice.
They hold the phone for her because she insists.
Her voice is full of pain. I ask if she's getting enough medication,
She says: No but I want to stay awake.
We touch on her grandchildren I know she's worried that
her death is the only thing they'll remember, I tell her it won't be.
Then she says: I love you dolly, I'm going
to go eat lemon pie and chocolate now.
Both of her favorites when she lived with me.
I answer: That sounds really nice. And it does.
She says: I don't care if I get sick and die today.
I say: If you do, know I love you.
She doesn't answer right away and I hear the hitch
in her voice that means she's crying too.
We've said goodbye a hundred times in twenty years of cancer.
Maybe I'll talk to you later, she says softly.
I say: Okay if not today then sometime.
She says: Yes and bring chocolate.

(c) copyright 2012 Robin Smith. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cleansing Our Bibles

At the witching time I wake to find
what survived the day in fading dreams
that throw their shadows into distant light.

I eat nothing so that the pit in my stomach
can work its way into walk and talk
for my trip across the tight rope sky.

At the Jiffy Lube, a man with few teeth and a large smile
tells me he works 8 hours 7 days a week.
He's glad for Thanksgiving to come.

Once, at a laundromat, I accepted change from hands
with fingers cracked raw by chemicals.
He saw my horror and sighed.

If only I were stone I could endure not seeing.
If only I were a tree I'd know how to be.

The cold and bitter wind unweaves
a prayer's hem from my soul.
Let's write our own bibles,

revealing ourselves
to ourselves. We'll wash up clean
and remember to seek and erase the memory.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cybernetic Warrior

Gray tornadoes mate on the desolate plane
where demons mass for an ambush,
spawning chaos whose winds our potions block.
Night of terror and destruction. Purity
and power in the hall where freaks
and zombies of a dying world contaminate
the air we breathe. Wastes of skin in our
scanners. We are the birth of a new order
with nothing to gain because we are nothing,
just ones and zeros and the skill
to decipher the master plan. Deceit
is a ploy, baby face a diversion.
Seek and destroy and in the final hour
go down in an inferno whose god ordains
survival of the best. Death is the opiate.

Power is meaningless without meaning.
The enemy is faceless but it could be us.

(c)copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.