Carillon

Wayne Miller

Phones were ringing

in the pockets of the living
and the dead

the living stepped carefully among.
The whole still room

was lit with sound—like a switchboard—
and those who could answer

said hello. Then
it was just the dead, the living

trapped inside their bloody clothes
ringing and ringing them—

and this was
the best image we had

of what made us a nation.
 

More by Wayne Miller

Nocturne

Tonight all the leaves are paper spoons
in a broth of wind. Last week
they made a darker sky below the sky.

The houses have swallowed their colors,
and each car moves in the blind sack
of its sound like the slipping of water.

Flowing means falling very slowly—
the river passing under the tracks,
the tracks then buried beneath the road.

When a knocking came in the night,
I rose violently toward my reflection
hovering beneath this world. And then 

the fluorescent kitchen in the window
like a page I was reading—a face
coming into focus behind it:

my neighbor locked out of his own party,
looking for a phone. I gave him
a beer and the lit pad of numbers

through which he disappeared; I found
I was alone with the voices that bloomed
as he opened the door. It's time

to slip my body beneath the covers,
let it fall down the increments of shale,
let the wind consume every spoon.

My voice unhinging itself from light,
my voice landing in its cradle—.
How terrifying a payphone is

hanging at the end of its cord.
Which is not to be confused with sleep—
sleep gives the body back its mouth.

The Affair

1

It was a desire to jump narratives—

to find himself suddenly
encircled by different lights

in the distant hills. To find
the hum of the engine

conveying him forward

had altered its tone. The self
had to be asserted

against that which seemed

merely given: the body’s
untranscendable location—

to step outside it, outside
what was visible

in the mirror in the room.

2

He found himself threaded
through the mouth

by his only narrative,
the body that held it

propelling him forward

through the dark, the light
of that narrative

reaching out to strike
the ground before him

in his only voice.

Mind-Body Problem

When I touch your skin and goosebumps lift,
it’s your mind that surfaces there.
When your iris tightens mechanically
around your pupil, that aperture
becomes for me the blacked-out
cockpit of your mind.
                                        It’s your mind
that touches your tongue to mine,
your mind that, when you’re driving,
lowers your hand to my thigh
almost mindlessly.
                                  Your mind
like a pilot light inside your sleep,
your mind that beats your heart—
slower, then faster—infusion pump
in the chest, flooding your mind.

But your heart is not your mind.
The curve of your hip; the soft
skin of your wrist is not your mind.
The tumor growing in your brain
is just your brain, I say.
                                         The shape
of your face; the sound of your voice,
which I love so much, is not your mind.
Your mind spills through—fire

I can’t stop watching from the far
side of this darkening valley.

Related Poems

The Bottom

I stopped drinking on my way down the hill
to the liquor store when two guys pulled up
and tried to drag me into their pickup. I crossed the street
then ran in the opposite direction, puffing
against the incline. The stranger thrust into reverse 
and, when I wouldn't talk to him,
threw a bag of McDonald’s trash at me,
Stuck up bitch. I stopped drinking
when I realized I was fighting 
for the vodka at the bottom of the hill
more than I was fighting against the terrible
things that could have happened to me
inside the cab of that rusty Chevy. I stopped drinking
before cell phones. I stopped drinking
after Days of Wine and Roses. I stopped drinking
even as I kept walking to El Prado Spirits
and the guy behind the counter who recognized me
asked if I was alright. I didn't tell him
what had happened because he might have called
the police and then I would have had to wait
for them to arrive to fill out a report, delaying my Smirnoff.  
I stopped drinking even before I had that last sip,
as I ran back up the hill squeezing a bottle by its neck.