Errol Miller (M.A., NE Louisiana U, 1991) has published poems in Puerto del Sol, Four Quarters, Caliban, Laurel Review, and others. He was recently featured in an interview in Southern Beat, and has published a chapbook, A Succession of Fine Lives from March Street Press. Two of his poems were nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 1994.
Voices & Visions
As recently as tonight
I'll assemble the choir from New Hope,
drive up to Lake D'Arbonne's outer bank
to watch the boats come in, meandering past
Victory Lighthouse Baptist Church where
a man in a battered pickup sells summer produce.
A big cloud gathers to the Southwest, he
is slowly packing up his merchandise.
This 20th Century space we've entered in,
this 20th Century space reserved for us, if only
we lived in a perpetual bubble or a glass vase
or a limestone pavilion in Central Alabama
where creosote smoke from the mill seldom
enters in, the present motif's a dirty mess, an
alien abstract place we're passing through
on our way to higher ground. Other
essential elemental changes lurk
around the terra-cotta bend, over the rainbow
at the year 2000. By then we may
have the Starship cranked and cancer cured,
a ravishing blonde in every bed.
Drawing on the Old South for strength, drawing
nudes on urinal walls, graffiti from the Sixties,
these representative artists of Now are lost
in familiar field, they just drift away to Nirvana,
taking time to explore dusty rural Texas
and the exquisite riches across the Rio Grande.
There is no yellow-brick road spanning the ages,
running across town to a house of ill repute
where disease-free favors are free. There is only
the diversity of a seasick nation slipping
into an ocean of hysteria (Atlantis?) and donations
from Oriental nations laughing in their beer,
superb little pieces of the network of change,
and we with it, Cisco, our medieval charm
hasn't worked since World War II and the railroads
have passed away and the hobos hide in
nameless boneyards in Nameless, USA.
In tomorrow's cupboard, there is no Sunday
come-to-dinner goodness or Victorian houses
in Asheville where the family waits, just
the silence of kerosene lamps blown out
in sad cafes, the hollow echo of theaters
when the crowd has gasped and gone.
Let us remember sociology
and Lone Star Beer and central reality
and, for old-times sake, our history: elsewhere
on the Delta big mare horses stamp impatient.
All the good fat land needs is use,
alluvial red clay folded back for the duration,
communities like Yazoo City holding their own.
Such emotional longings, after a couple of drinks
I sit down at a heavy wooden table
to compose Tristar Ballads: they themselves
are filled with silly human phrases, they
hang there on the wall curing over
sputtering hickory coals. I am diverted
by domestic chatter about who slept better, I
am not concerned with eggs for breakfast
or cleaning house: could this be
the Major Someday I'm living for, later,
we'll ride out Highway 80 East to buy
marigolds and petunias and slay
a super Southern afternoon.
So the Beat Generation is wandering about aimlessly.
So vultures scan the cutover woods of Dixie,
giant Mississippi sunflowers stalk the heavens,
and wisteria-scent oozes from the garden, last night
the moon fell and I couldn't find it, I dreamed
of Salinas in the 30s and immortal guests
arriving at Costa del Sol, I ran
with Spain's mightiest bulls and saw Hemingway
cleaning his rifle, I awoke to the midday blues
of Middle America and spoke to my wife.
She wasn't interested in sex
or going to the grocery store, so
we simply closed up shop.
The Man from Last Summer
Things about him,
the essential other man,
for art and for infinity, I watched
a fireball sun go down off the coast of Leucadia,
I glimpsed an old familiar shadow half-forgotten in
the West Coast twilight: flesh and bone, and little more,
just a surreal other self divorced from
the coming Doomsday storm.
I wrote out
the rage and I wrote out the rage, such
formal forlorn beauty in the movement to conclusion,
what it's like on a Saturday night downtown when
all the trains have passed and gone.
The hero examines his thin veneer, searching
for life-blood, for the half-remembered moments
where the silence of the wren and the shimmering
aura of a rainbow fused in magical imagination.
Then, the twilight turned blue, flecked
I cry for all of us stranded
on these classical human shores, passing
through Urbana on our way to higher ground.
What we need is sensibility, deeply dreaming eyes,
sonic machines to thrust us far beyond mortality.
If only and all that jazz, if only
we could shape our own demise, if only
death was a slight inconvenience.
And my heart leaps from
its secret hiding place, for each action
a reaction, brother, can you spare a moment
to study a map of Star City? Love, it is, that
grows with consumption, transcending the borders
of time and space: this damned condition,
gnawing at my bones when my wings don't work.
I have flown higher in other past lives,
symbolically living blurred moments as
the hero and the heroine part in such sweet sorrow.
And the future became very insecure, a vision of lyrical hurting swept over me, I
wanted to go home again
to a more delicate land, North or South
or wherever an old man sits the sea
is always nearby, beckoning, competing for attention.
Such deserved rest for the net-menders of Earth.
Such stored-up lullabys waiting to be sung,
broken stanzas baptized in white light,
carefully selected passages from a grey book
rewritten in the chill of early fall.