Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Affair


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.


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.


Copyright @ 2014 by Wayne Miller. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on June 11, 2014.

About this Poem

"'The Affair' arrived when I was repeatedly struck by two seemingly unrelated thoughts: (1) that we tend to explore the future—particularly the immediate future—with imagined, predictive narratives; and (2) that affairs are rarely about simple attraction. I managed to yoke together these ideas when I arrived at the image of the train, which initially the man seems to be riding Rabbit-style away from his marriage, but which soon becomes him as he barrels forward along the tracks of his life. My father had a number of affairs while I was growing up—something I've tried to understand more clearly and sympathetically than the simplifying narratives I've been told about him might generally allow for; this poem was, I believe, another attempt in that direction."

—Wayne Miller


Wayne Miller

Wayne Miller is the author of Post- (Milkweed Editions, 2016) andThe City, Our City (Milkweed Editions, 2011).

Date Published: 2014-06-11

Source URL: