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.