Christopher Patrick Miller

S T O R M

STORM CENTURY TURNING IN A CITY

The snow having just fallen he thought of how easily we move into these cities, some other century, and call it the same moral string: the poverty, the gaslight, the showcase, the admonitions, the sleep.  Sitting on the purple-hearted chairs and tables one looks out on the snow shelving bicycles and televisions.  Sees another person quietly fall.  The polish family upstairs is running a daycare in their two-bedroom apartment and there are children who have no respect for the sky.  She thought of herself as the black draw of a new moon and he said these entitlements are strangling growth.  She thought of herself as a child stenographer but grew frustrated with the men who thought it a sign of vitality to never speak still.  If I can stand why can’t these prisoners.   If I can walk why can’t these cripples face up to the miracle.  He says I am tired of these new-to-the-city stories because they disguise something much more severe, self-destructive, rifling the background of laughter.  She liked the sound of rebel but felt it lost force and sentience in the jungle where it had hidden out for years.  The plumber may come tomorrow.  She takes to putting on private plays and to going to the theater.  Something changes in him and she tries to point to it by reading shorter stories out loud in the living room where they sleep.  It takes him two days to get across the room to where she was standing and by then only a pale honesty remained without the wrought, beautiful grain of judgment.  Fed on debt and the dead time they have created, we are left to be exceptions.  As a clerk, his lateness is constant but varies each day and he prefers not to speak, for himself.  Fallen in the promised snow he is just not the man he wanted his blood to speak.  Shake your last-time look, young man or you will be another century’s socket.  See me now so I can trust you with this money.

 

STORM COMING TO MEET YOU

Unbearable is every start towards you.  The things I would have said.  Sand with a dull knife carve, pounding shores and the millions of lips raised in the retreat.  The things I would have said live on and we must feed them with unfocused eyes, lights bleeding.  Cerro Rico is a hollow mountain that is hollow because its veins are dry once glittering with moon harvest and the mercury trembling within their limbs when they returned home to the unborn.  A good strong back is good enough for a few years in the mines and then they wonder off into the rubber trees, filled their stomachs with dirt.  I have found myself into someone else’s pain once again: sugar canes, salt planes, and asthmatic dressings of gauze.  Losing skin the lepers hurt like air leaving.  You were a doctor but couldn’t heal the bottlenecked atriums in your lungs.  Your name translates roughly into hey, listen, man.  Put your face on the walls of our libraries.  Barthes said to be a lover is to desire affirmation.  When I got out of work and came to meet you were already a woman underground.  What do I know about your own private contortions and these sturdy northern legs built out of the silver they hauled in blessed hulls to the no-land.  Hidden under guns I can tell you there were the ghost seeds of orchids.  Wild oats.  Our veins glow through the long sleep of our skin.

 

STORM AS MEDICAL EXPERIMENT

It has recently been acknowledged by the US state department that sanctioned experiments were carried out between prostitutes and inmates which involved syphilis and penicillin and the risky and unethical behavior of what might turn out where pangea was stretched and blown like a glass tulip stem in cloud fire.  Have I made this more beautiful, she said to the qui’che prisoner, who was only too happy to be close to a woman in the dark.  Who was only too happy to see his wife the next day among the mestizo guards and explain how well this new treatment was working.  When we work the distance we make it into art.  When we keep the distance we call it health.  The afternoon rains wrestled with the raccoons in the roofs, bent metal into standing voices.  The guards go on strike because they are asked to live like prisoners in the breed pools.  Unfortunate, really, how beautiful this splitting jungle has become.  She left while the children were sleeping.  The dirt floor is a palm.  Pressure front are these tremors of a host, waves building off shore.  When he came back, he brought me pansies, which he said were once known as love-in-idleness.

 

STORM OF SPRING AT INDIAN ROCK

I am paying myself out in storms.  Cool air come into the open kitchen where our feet were bare and overlapping.  But why do I spend so much time thinking of your return, as a full voice on the phone, or, even more, as a nightfallen heart beating within the cautious range of my hand.  You cultivate what you hide and then hide yourself.  How would you know that I am just a fragile line in the real?  I wonder if spring is love for you in this twisted garden of air or is it just gold pollen on lips.  We made it this far but the rush is nowhere going.  So I try to stay taut, to keep bending my line into war, as if strength were enough to match the blood in the world.  And when we are alone, do we take this time to find some middle way between the betrayals of democracy, magic, and revolutionary vanguard?  What now can I use to reinvent myself and why do I keep writing about the same bare scraps lying about when young mothers cover their faces with rubble, fear the long clutch of adoption.  Tell the children the truth.  Maybe these heartwilds have all been solipsistic, apostrophes for waiting out a bitter, contestable love.  Dream with me.  The mind must declare itself.  Forget your commissions, reconciliation is truth as it burns into the long blind pauses of an interview: unending and unappropriable.  The pursuit of it begins us again in the nights where no one can find us calling out our difference from the day.  You tell me what comedy of years, a traveling circus or spaghetti meal on highwire.  The fool is hurt life on a stem, a bright vagabond against the snowy mountains.  By the time we make it to the square the undercover men hurling rocks from horses disappear into the crowd.  A voice holds open the ground.

 

STORM WHAT LILY SAYS

What grows in these parts of you.  So much time you spend writing your poetry, runs in the hills.  On a post: learn how to protect your home from wild embers.  Boxing, he says, is a misunderstanding of the world’s antagonisms.  Poverty sharing blows with poverty.  O, dear.  I don’t care for boxing and try to interrupt your pronouncements with little words.  How can the ocean look so hard at a distance.  I want to spend my life.  Faraway, but contiguous.  There is this fear of taking on your persuasions, sympathies I cannot bear.  I watch as you look down at the canyon wall full of manzanitas, lichen, and dried thistles and give in to an eroding tumble and crawl, crashing through someone’s property.  I will not follow.  You fall into a flock of hooks.  How will you get out.  Later, in the shower, you will rinse off the blood, reliving the brambles hanging thin hot lines.  A barbarousness.  Your legs will sing uncovered while we boil water and try to sort out the train horns from the barges in the bay, talking Etta’s love that has come along.  At last.  The night where I looked into you.

 

STORM ARE YOU THE MOMENTUM

I ask because I feel more vulnerable than ever to history these days.  Everyone says I am doing the best I can.  Every morning it is a sick frenzy reading articles in bastard news, rifling for small details of struggle amidst the cruel entertainment.  Mr. Mayor, what do you know about violence?  Shock treatment.  Infertilization.  One in four on the bathroom stall, a rape.  Close the doors, raise money to keep the talent.  Shut it down.  My body is the best comment on the world.  People say go where the momentum is.  You don’t have to wait until you die.  I used to envy a close friend who moved to Italy because she hated the falseness and cruelty of America, fell in love with a shipbuilder, and lived off the romance for a couple years.  The fatigue set in and he convinced her other people should be involved.  She stayed home when he left for weeks and began losing her hair.  I told her there is no other country.  I asked her if she still knew of winter music, the kind made by hot air forcing itself through pipes and organs.  And now, these drums in public parks.  Miniature cities with hospitals, libraries of moonlight.  Enough to feed them.

 


 

 

Editors’ Notes

Christopher Patrick Miller

Christopher Patrick Miller Christopher Patrick Miller grew up in rural New Hampshire and has lived in New York, Chicago, and, most presently, Oakland. He holds degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Chicago in literature and architecture and has worked as a ghost writer, carpenter, landscaper, and teacher. He is currently completing graduate work in the English department at UC Berkeley on twentieth-century poetry and poetics and urbanism. In addition to serving as an editor for FLOOR he is also a contributor to the journal on public education, Reclamations.