Joseph Millar

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

POEM OF EXPERIENCE

 

I will never again write from personal experience.
– Jean-Philippe Dariens

If they keep on with their unstable muttering,
chipping away at the worn first person
now pulling weeds outside in the garden
or leaning its ladder against the garage,
maybe no one else will show up
in sneakers and old musty hat
to water the lettuce or clean out the gutters,
patch the fence by the gate…

Maybe no one will waste most of Wednesday
driving to town and getting lost
on the slanted black streets of Lynchburg
amid coffee galleries and book stores, the music
CD’s glittering like badges: Hendrix, Mingus,
the jewelry of cell phones opening
their cheap clasps over the sidewalks
dotted with late spring rain.

Maybe the kitchen above the brick steps
will vanish in a sudden postmodern ellipsis,
along with the olive oil in its jar
glowing like a lamp on the counter top
strewn with the gold skin of carrots and spuds
and the onion’s translucent husks,
the pot with its glass lid
she bought at Good Will,
the stove’s charred burner
and blue gas flame even now
beginning to stutter and rise,
even now beginning to hiss.

 

 

 

Lyrical

 

The spaniel next door yaps at the sparrows,
he yaps at the crows and the mailman,
yaps at the compost pile and the sunflower,
yaps at the rain and the sky. He yaps
at the steps leading down to the creek
where the flax plants bloom high as my waist
and the blue flowers force their way up
through small stones the color of night. He
yaps at the garbage truck’s back-up beeper,
iron bell song of the priest and bridegroom,
song of the lone ship, song of the train,
song of the big waves rolling and breaking
over the western reefs. He yaps at the rosebush,
yaps at the fence, song for the sidewalk cracked
in half, the wine bottle resting against the curb,
the neighbor who doesn’t come home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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JOSEPH MILLAR‘S first collection, Overtime was a finalist for the 2001 Oregon Book Award. His second collection, Fortune, appeared in 2007, followed by a third, Blue Rust, in 2012. Millar grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Johns Hopkins University before spending 25 years in the San Francisco Bay area working at a variety of jobs, from telephone repairman to commercial fisherman. It would be two decades before he returned to poetry. His work—stark, clean, unsparing—records the narrative of a life fully lived among fathers, sons, brothers, daughters, weddings and divorce, men and women.He has won fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a 2008 Pushcart Prize and has appeared in such magazines as DoubleTake, TriQuarterly, The Southern Review, APR, and Ploughshares.  Millar teaches in Pacific University’s low-residency MFA.

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