E. Ethelbert Miller


Photo credit: Annie Kim.




Palestine around Midnight


for Zeina


I’m afraid love is homeless.

Our lives occupied by loneliness.

Who built the wall that surrounds our hearts?

Tell me who threw the first kiss and not the first stone.

I protest against sadness.

I protest against tears.

Please do not terrorize me with forgiveness.

The sky is dark and the sun undresses behind the moon.

Hold my face in your hands – hold it like a star.




The Silence in the Middle of Your Back


The absence of love is suffocating

which is why so many of us die

from loneliness. The thought of you

undresses my dreams and takes

the coat off my words. I need to touch

the silence in the middle of your back.

I need to listen to the music which rests

at the top of your thighs – only then might

my tongue sing. The fragrance of you

creates a dizzy dance of seduction.

Let me leap into the deep ocean of your flesh.

What sins are we afraid of?

I need to count your nakedness

with my fingers. I need to know

enough is not enough.




Ark of Walls


for J


We will all die in small rooms

maybe no larger than the ones

we live in.


Space is as suffocating

as despair.


If we are blessed we will live

with another as if waiting

for Noah to take two more.


Too many lives overwhelmed

by floods of sadness and hearts

of secrets.


May we never become outlaws

to love.






Yes, I am torn

by the telling

as if we had made

love to words our

entire lives

and not to one



Too much silence

adds up to the total

number of years

between us.


How do we subtract

feelings – and what

could be missing

besides you?


This I am told

is the love inside

the egg – the not knowing

how we might ever fly.


The shell of ourselves

falling apart, cracking

with great anticipation.






for Ethelbert


In another life I was there

to tend to your wings.

Now it’s morning and wet

earth. Dew and semen

everywhere. You tell me

love makes pain

disappear and the

tongue speaks its own

language of remembrance.

Why is there nothing I can do

but hold you until you fly?




The Attic


In your attic I heard the rumors of your flesh.

My silent nights alone kept me awake.

What could I believe without touching?

The perfume of you lingers as if it was nothing

but sheets of smell wrapping around my tongue,

causing my eyes to linger in the dark searching

for your breasts, lips and the high curve of your

back. Every rumor falls into my deaf hands

as if love was something I could never hide

or put away.
















Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. He is the author of several collections of poetry and two memoirs. Miller serves as a board member for The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. For fourteen years he has been the editor of Poet Lore, the oldest poetry magazine published in the United States. Miller has taught at several universities and currently serves on the faculty at the University of Houston/Victoria. His poetry has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, German, Hungarian, Chinese, Farsi, Norwegian, Tamil and Arabic.


Miller is often heard on National Public Radio. He is host of the weekly morning radio show On the Margin which airs on WPFW-FM 89.3. Miller is host and producer of The Scholars on UDC-TV, and his E-Notes has been a popular blog since 2004. On April 19, 2015, Miller was inducted into the Washington DC Hall of Fame. In 2016, Miller received the AWP George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature and the DC Mayor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Honor. His latest book of poetry, The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller, edited by Kirsten Porter and published in March 2016 by Willow Books, is a comprehensive collection that represents over 40 years of his career as a poet. 



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