Saturday, March 31, 2012

Humpty Dumpty Man

Humpty Dumpty and Alice. 
Illustration by John Tenniel.

Yes, they come at night, those demented scenes of a life
lost amid chance, wobbly paths, ruins, and self-deceit.
I twine together the cartoons as best I can,
but the eye that sees the universe seeing me
is not for me, frail and broken thing I am.

Time embraces me in its roots like a tortured
mother and shrieks from her hole in the ground.
We dance by campfire and paint our hunt for blood
on rock walls. If only I could melt into the stone
and become one with its moist, serene face.

Best to stand with chattering tongues among the shades,
crying helplessly for a prayer to cover my nakedness.

Shards of a lost self seeking to put itself back
together again night and day, Humpty-dumpty man
in a Halloween mask, wake and smell the brew.
Time's short, the cop with his ticket book can only warn
you away from the inhuman altar. The road to paradise
is yours to find. Nightmare's but the scent of joy.

Nightmares at night are the least of it for me.
Who I can become is the real terror from which I must wake.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mr. Spring

Photo: Charles David Miller

When Venus and Jupiter
Surf the skiff of the sky,
When the city entices me
Into its labyrinth of the eye,
There I'll find my friends
And Spring with a feather
In his hair, with nowhere to sleep
But the end of the rails
And the beginning of joy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wax Icon

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you..."

You see in my face the waste of skin
that if I saw like you I'd hate it too.

The words I hold so dear make
your hair itch. The road I walk
you'd spit on with fire, and slash
and burn until earth itself would beg
you to kill me. Each nook and secret
I hide from view you see before I do.
It burns like bile in your throat; your
jaw sets, teeth grind, and the meat
of your tongue tastes as sweet
as my pound of flesh would on your plate.

We live in a mirrored world, where all
these doubles talk and dress like us,
say the same platitudes, think the same
thoughts, make the same rim
shot, sweep the same garbage
from the floor. They live in that blind
spot that hides us from ourselves,
too vain to care. I smell it too; hate floats
in the air where shit does not stink.

Hold me as close as you hold your love.
I know who you hate, for I hate them too.

They say hate lives in a house of salt.
The priests come at night to scratch
from the walls, the jambs, the sills
what they use in the sacrifice to the god
of anger. At noon, hate walks in the park,
takes its children on the merry-go-round.
It has a good job, pays its bills, and goes
to church. It belongs to the Rotary Club.
I know it well, and wave to it always.

We hate what we can and cannot change.
As time works out its purpose in us,
the wax icon we shape looks like ourselves.

So hold me close, dear enemy, as close
as your love and then, then I will love you if I can.

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

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Photo: Charles David Miller

I knew well the tree that bore
the fruit of songs. It harbored stars
and the gentle Spring wind and called
into life dawn where the orioles perch.

The red dog chased the rubber ball
while the black dog ate white fish
on the shores of lakes without end.
We swam in waves that stretched
to the farthest shore, there where
the light-house beam cuts night in two.
Ships afloat with iron bullion steered
past wilderness and tracked the
water like Leviathan seeking rest.

We felt what earth and sky and dream
felt, for their names were on our lips
like the flower that blooms at night
and opens with dew on its buds.
Our tread echoed the deer on the moss,
our feet raced the horse to the sun,
our eyes scanned mountain tops
as we dove in and out of the wind.

It was a day like no other, when earth
began its wail. We sought shelter
beneath the tree, huddling close
in our skin that each knew as the other.
We had no fear then, only concern
that the sun might consume the fields
and char the remnants of our joy.
There was only concern that skin
might turn to powder like the leaf
in autumn or the wood in fire.

Then the sky spewed out its poison,
the lakes went dry and the white fish
flapped gray and sick in crusting mud.
The skies themselves
flamed colors we'd never seen,
sick with revenge and anger.
It was then we left, not to return.

I knew that tree that sang our joy.
It stands there still, behind the gates
of fading memory and angel sword,
lit by anger and despair for what we had done.

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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bat Limerick

There was a man who lost his hat
Blown off his head like a nervous bat
When he finally found it
He knew it would not fit
The hat had changed to fit the bat


Someone left a single shoe in the sun.
Forlorn and weird, it lay unable to run.
A Koan it seemed, a riddle posed by Zen,
Seeking solution beyond the normal ken.
What silent race in life does one shoe run?

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

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring in PA

'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'

How proud muscle and bone are,
blood up and nose to the wind;
how proud in collapse to rebel
against the sun and raise the white flag
in sarcasm and growing fat like a cow.

Sun peeking thru grass, seek the yellow pulse
that binds daisies and violets; jimmy unending joy
from my gut where I walk
past streams that hide in plain sight,
by green ponds where geese sojourn,
under bridges the young have not
yet burned. Joy should be my name,
hammered out by the red crested bird
on hollow trunks near sacred stone.

Walk with me my friend; step with me
over mossed limbs. Go silently along mud banks
where the deer drink. Guide me past
the broken window where a star
once imploded on crypt house walls.

Be here my friend, by my side, bone of bone,
breath of my breath. Your words read me
closer than i know myself.

Find me inside these wrenched black gates
that a car has tried to ram through,
writing in this Spring park on a stump
with my chihuahua who's too timid to run
with the big dogs. Find me waiting, skin melting
from bone, ears failing to hear, tongue cloying
sweet words to seduce happiness.

You were there those debauched nights
when the drunken, drug-hazed car lamed me
along the tracks to a horizon with no returns.
That night I lost my glasses in the brown study.

Be with me now friend, though my bowels give out,
my eyes glaze gray, and fingers tremble
with a spoon of shriveled grain. It's your song
that once I heard it, the universe came clean
and peeled back this skin it wears.


These sounds and face tonguing and toothing gritty
truths, make me look like a victim, free of fault.
I've dished as much shit as anyone and pulled pain
from life like a bad tooth torn from a sick mouth.

But her; why her dead so young and without blame,
that night her blood flowed from under the tires.
I will wait, friend, for as long as it takes, on
whatever desolate shore, whatever fiery night
to speak of this and hear you answer and say the holy name.

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

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Boy Who Knew No Fear

The following adapts the Grimm's fairy tale, The Story of a Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear . The poem was written for the Poetics prompt at the dVersePoets Blog

This power in the soul, then, this unfailing conservation of right and lawful belief about things to be and not to be feared is what I call and would assume to be courage... – Plato, Republic, 429e-430a-c

There was a young boy whose father
thought he was stupid and dull.
His brother was smart and made
straight As in school, but the boy cared
for none of these. He did not cry,
and neither rod nor laugh
could stir him, since he knew no fear.
His body never shook, his teeth did not
chatter. They called him a sociopath,
whatever that means.

This lack of fear ate at his heart
for he knew enough to know
that people who shuddered
lived lives that made them happy,
and their love brought them joy
after sorrow, laughter after years of tears.

So the boy who did not know fear
set out on the road one fine day, with
nothing in his pockets and a smirk
on his face. He lived in the movie house
and watched months of guts, blood,
and gore splattering the screen.
He slept for years in haunted homes,
where ghosts and goblins sucked
his bones. But he simply yawned
and fell asleep, there to dream
of a land where people quake
and tremble and bend on knees
to find solace from terror.

He marched to war where he saw
grown men become children and piss
their pants, then turn to monsters eating brains.
His soul did not scar, his eyes did not blind
from nights of shake and bake bombs
and bodies burning to bone for hours
on end from the phosphorous.

They gave him medals for courage
because he could walk through fire,
but the boy who had no fear shook his head
and sought once more the road,
dumb and innocent in ignorance of fear.

Through jungle meetings with the jaguar,
down city streets filled with knives and bloody bottles,
he walked until one day he arrived at a kingdom
whose princess cried as spirits tread
heavily on her spine at night.

By that time, the boy who knew no fear
had become a man who felt none either,
sad and lonesome but dumb to sorrow.
The king of that realm gave him seven tests
of courage to see if he could quell the demons
at his daughter's soul. In the story, the boy
who'd become a man knowing no fear
threw out each evil wraith, seven times
facing horror after horror without shuddering.

The challenges met, the princess gained peace,
and they marry amid wide acclaim and festal lights.
But the man without fear is unhappy still,
his heart empty of love, laughter, or joy. His wife's
adoration only gnawed deeper still
at the hollow pit that was his soul.

Things would have stayed this way, the man
become a bored king reigning in a joyless house,
until a lowly maid replied to the princess' cries,
and said she'd cure the king of his ill heart.
That next morning, while he still slept,
they pulled the covers from his warm body
and spilled a kettle of flapping minnows
on him. His body shuddered at the chill
and he opened his eyes to their laughing howls,
and he laughed too once and forevermore,
awake to trembling and shivers and laughter.

And then the man who'd been a boy who knew
no fear became a spirit with awareness,
for he now knew what joy was and sorrow too,
and smile and tear, and shaking joy
filled his heart all his life, each in their time.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Off the Road to Abiqiu

The following poem and prose are part of a much longer piece.

After five years without a vacation or holiday, working as a consultant - mostly working though fearful of one job ending and not finding another for months - I decided to take a Thanksgiving week and recharge my batteries. I wanted complete isolation, as far away from work as I could get, as well as my family. This wasn't fair to them, but I knew that if I didn't find some sense of peace I couldn't be a good father or husband either. My marriage was already on the rocks that it would eventually shipwreck on.

I also wanted to come to terms with spiritual realities that I said I lived by, the Christian way of life and its meaning. I'd converted to Christianity out of nihilism, and I wanted to live that life for a while that Catholicism said was the spiritual goal of life: complete and utter adoration of God.

The perfect place for this was Christ in the Desert Monastery, a place I'd visited with a former girlfriend's father, a staunch Catholic of the old school. I'd been back once before with a friend, a devotee of Sai Baba, who'd turned against the guru and who was then exploring other spiritual traditions.

Remote, without access to power lines, telephone or easy to drive roads, the monastery was the place of my dreams to escape to or at least to retreat to. Run by the Benedictine monastic order, it was set up for just such spiritual renewals. I could attend liturgy seven times a day, mass once, and sing ancient Gregorian chants originating from the earliest days of Christian devotion.

The following poem is a fruit of that stay in the desert.

Off the road to Abiqiu,
the mud ruts run
to the monastery
where an unseen bell
rings from the aspen tree.

Black birds rise
above desert meadows
as dawn light inscribes
the geology of time
in red, orange
and grey cliff strata
across the river.

In the first part of the poem, I write of the aspen tree in the cold cold desert wind ripping down the muddy river's valley. When I arrived an early snow storm had turned the road to almost impassable mud. Cars of other people headed to the monastery got stuck and had to be pulled out by the monks in their four wheel drive.

I recall the bell that rang the seven Hours of the canonical day, calling monks and visitors to prayer in the chapel up a dark path at night. For me, that bell seemed to ring somewhere else, a different reality, hence its likeness to the beautiful aspen that turns golden that time of year. Certainly that pure clarity of the bell contrasted sharply with the jaded imagination that I carried with me into the chapel. Jaded by the workaday world, yes, but jaded also by many years of doing things I had not yet fully understood why I did them or what they meant.

Invoking geological time in the poem, I hope remember the ghosts of eras and aeons that stand outside human time. This objective time that stands impassive to the lives of individual awareness. That time with its fossils that can confirm a past easily touched, tasted, heard and tested in the books that some might use to prove once and for all that we are dust, only dust.

This was written as part of a prompt at the dVersePoets poetry blog

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Silent Reward

cracked blue egg on the curb,
you spell summer's start
in letters all would know
should they just look down.

the chicks nest in tree limbs
that hang low over old
gray schist block walls,
inviting careless torpor
or juvenile prank
of those who might walk
along well-worn paths.

holly seeds decay, black and dry,
on hot concrete. the need
to multiply brooks no trammel,
maybe to root in the ruts
in the edifice of human design.

in shadows cast by the dawn,
there's no code to find,
no secret to decipher.
no stories that embody darkness.
memory seeks in vain
a tearless fountain
whose water cleans all
links to life beyond recall.

begin again life.
hope find silent reward.

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

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I'm puzzled that the world didn't end.
I think of history as a gaudy balloon
whose surface squirms with special
effect images, but inside it's foul
with the stench of gulags and beer
hall messiahs.
It's so hard to see what's real
with all the shit flying in the air
as the capitalist cyclone erects
world markets and economic boom.

I sit on the sixth floor across from Battery Park
writing computer manuals for the Empire.
The Statue of Liberty hemorrhages in a window
looking out on the last day of the century.
The warheads don't fly. The banks stay open.
Wall Street is safe. A relieved sigh
swells inside the throats of newsmen
tired with one more day of packaging the news.

If it doesn't pay, it's not real. Lies within
lies wrapped in a commercial.
Hollywood Babylon rules
the corporate unconscious...
we are what we watched.
Art now means a way to sell
something to somebody
who's already drunk with too much.

So what if I imagine more blood
in the sunset than my peers...
I'm just a hack writer for the Machine
with as much need
for a dollar as the next guy,
and a growing fear I don't
have the right information
I need to keep up.

What seemed like love one day becomes a prison,
and the one you loved's
a stranger who'll kill you
and himself for a ticket on
the paradise express.

Finding what's worth dying for is uncertain, trembling
like the body of your lover as she orgasms
in your ear and tells you
how forbidden love is. Her husband's
stolen her art and money,
and he lives in the cellar with a gun
waiting for her to crack. Are we all
hostage to demented love?
Reduced to dirty marriages,
rape farms, and rampage
under cover of night that deposits bodies
in unmarked graves?

History can't penetrate us
the way an organ or knife does,
it envelopes us and sends
the news across the galaxy.
We link one end of Armageddon
with another and hear nothing
but hysteria and the bizarre ranting
of a society addicted to its power
to make the trains run on time. 

* "beer hall messiah" was a term used for Hitler before he rose to power.
* "rape farm" is a variant of "rape camp," being investigated in 1999 as a means of war terror in Croatia and Serbia, during the Balkan wars. The term, "dirty marriage," was used derogatorily to denote the rape of women in these camps by the men.

This is an unpublished poem written in Jan 2000 submitted for the dVersePoets poetics prompt on 1999. The poem was written at the turn of the millennium, looking back on 1999 and the preceding century. I hope I'll be forgiven for stretching the rules of the prompt in this way.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Clean Hands

I want to wash my hands in angelic fire
and bring them home to Mother pure as snow.
But it is a mean, unruly world where
I want to wash my hands in angelic fire.

I want to join my song to the angel's choir,
where wicked and unjust men run the show.
I want to wash my hands in angelic fire
and bring them home to Mother pure as snow.

* submitted for the prompt at

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Angel Voices

Needing to be seen, I find my face
in the mirror and shave away the edge.

The lunatics on the street know me.
They whisper my secret name and splutter
profane histories that riff jagged chords
from out-of-tune wire. They beckon me to join
on bended knees and supplicate the God in you
at subway landings, our long greasy hair
draped over nugatory faces, neither male nor female,
our fingers hung like rotted fruit at the end
of dead tree limbs that beseech heaven
for pity, compassion, a stranger's stray dollar.

He hid under the covers and spoke
to the mother ship all night. At dawn,
he killed the dog and set the piano on fire.
The Others had come to take him home.
He spent months in the observation ward
and left with a pocket full
of antipsychotics and Gillespie
itching his finger tips with no way out.

They see one of their own in me, those lost
and despised. Like them, my past is one
long short-circuit of happiness. Their pain came
unasked, but mine played as perverse desire
to warm my self in its own burning ruins.
Criminally flawed, I'd bury my bone of deceit
in your chest and dig it out to chew on.
There's no crime I could not commit,
given the right circumstances.

When the meds milked his soul near empty,
the stars conjoined to tear him in two,
and his need to celebrate their harmony
so fated his blood, he quit eating the poison.
Lightning lost itself in the keys on the piano
and the chords of Gillespie spoke in angel voice
from the mother ship and mingled with mating songs
and drug deals in the dead end bar.
Dawn light on the Sangre de Christos ran red.

In the kingdom of the lost and insane,
the realm of saint and sinner, being seen
is not being seen, and not being seen
reveals our nothingness. Truth dies with you
in the grave and burns like an ember slowly
losing its glow. Only then do angel voices
open the gates of heaven or hell.

In the mirror, I shave away one more angle
to reveal yet another part of me that I might be or not.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Image from Walter Smith

Like a clot on the brain,
a nexus of neurons blinking yes/no
to yesterday (my death)
to today (my death)
to tomorrow (my death)

singing electromagnetic
siren calls on a visual field
seething with passions
desired for desolate shores
needing infinite mores
sliding down voids borne
across myriad galaxies

let me find my personal chaos
let me destroy myself
and remake and shift
from nothing to being
to tremble like a note
on a multiverse string

i got the package
i got the directions
i'll fold myself in triplicate
fold myself into any shape
and morph to replace
what i was never again

my death defying act
will traipse the web of nodes
strung across a shrinking sphere
that implodes and explodes
in accelerating spirals

Like a clot on the brain,
a nexus of neurons blinking yes/no
to yesterday (my death)
to today (my death)
to tomorrow (my death)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Betrayal

It happened one Christmas day after his divorce,
the time of year when spiritual sores grow
and rarely heal. Grandmother’s kitchen windows
fogged from the cooking. I'd have inscribed
secret signs in the moist clarity,
but all the secrets had finally drained away
like dirty water in the sink.

Maybe he'd been drinking all night. Maybe he
was sucked empty by working double shifts for a month.
Whatever, it was ugly and mean and hateful and he spewed
it at life and spawn. The unspoken betrayal spiraled
like a worm in the gut or black bird of prey in the air.
He went for the gun in his room and brought it out
like times before, but now he wanted to do himself.
Violent sorrow swelled his threat, eyes as red
as a cold and meaningless news statistic.

He walked to the barn with my Grandfather pleading
behind him to give up the gun. I let them go.
A part of me dead to the pain, to life, to survival.
We didn't talk, my sister or grandma. We waited.
When grandpa came back with the gun,
I think my father's eyes showed it then, that
sign of betrayal the years carve in memory.

In dreams he brings the gun. I wake and hear
him climbing the walls to my bedroom window.
Conscious of my betrayal, I am thankful for the bullet.

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

This unpublished poem was written ca. 1999. I've submitted it as part of the poetry prompt at