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Spring/Summer 1998, Volume 15.2

Poetry

 

Kevin Miller


Kevin Miller (BA, Washington U) teaches at Gig Harbor High School in Washington. His first book
Light That Whispers Morning (Glue Begonia P, 1994) received the Bumbershoot Weyerhaueser Publication Award.

 

At the Auction

near Port Orchard, you can buy people's lives. 
On the metal roof of a barn they've painted a picture of the barn. 
This barn is self-obsessed. 
The man in the jean jacket buys the blue bus 
and each stop it's made. He owns the evening 
it left the Blackball Ferry heading south 
until the red eye of the generator forced 
it to the gravel drive of the Gardner Store. 
This man will own the night drive without lights

through Bremerton, racing the last light of August. 
Where the corral would be, they stack appliances, 
a refrigerator, its produce drawers missing. 
The woman with the stroller may buy the empty shelves 
that held salmon caught near the Manchester dock. 
South of the barn a row of refurbished mowers 
line like the drill team, two wheel barrows hold 
cinder blocks as if all bookshelves end here. 
A young man with dyed black hair eyes the suitcases. 
He flips the latches, listens, the gold fasteners 
flick firm. He pushes the buttons left and right 
away from the yellow glass handle. 
He buys journeys: 
One day in 1945, a mother and daughter 
wait to board the ferry to Seattle on their way 
to the train headed to Wenatchee.

He will fill their suitcase with oils, 
brushes and rags pungent with thinner. 
He will paint a picture of the girl 
who shared the suitcase with her mother, who waits 
her hand raised. No one ever calls on her. 
He gives the girl a name. 
He calls his painting Hollis Waits, 
he tells her story: 
She lived near the abandoned farms behind Colby. 
The green specks in her eyes are Blake Island. 
This is the dress her aunt sewed,
those are her only shoes. 
This is her suitcase filled with oils, brushes, 
and rags pungent with thinner.

Inside the barn they've stacked boxes of books, 
the old photos, and shelves of figurines. 
A girl in faded overalls holds one wooden ski 
and pulls on the spring binding, her brother 
dances a perfect riposte with a bamboo pole. 
Their mother carries a hurricane lamp 
and a flat iron like her grandmother's. 
The man in the Darigold jacket finds a hall pass 
marking page twenty-seven of Baseball by Frank DiClemente, 
the book stamped Marstellar Junior High, Manassas, Virginia. 
In four black and white photos, Lew Burdette winds 
and delivers a fastball for the Braves still in Milwaukee.

 

After Reading that Burglars Left Harry Dean Stanton Bound and Gagged

What could they have thought 
when they first saw him, his face full 
of ropes and robbers, his eyes like buttons 
that undid their lives, that left them 
open to sorrows so much their own. 
They thought he knew their stories. 
They imagined he suffered for their failures. 
The first look showed disappointment, 
he must have seen the home movies, 
and instead of showing fear, he was a father 
with those notes home. Too many lines 
in his face said the same thing, and they 
felt sorry for themselves, convinced 
what was his was theirs by virtue of power, 
power they mistook for strength when they 
bound this man who turned a red baseball cap, 
railroad tracks, and silence into a loss greater 
than any sack full of booty they carried away.

 
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