by Kevin Miller

Something in the nerve endings burns
deep as if the bone core were hot wire,
the Charley horse pales, this,
this is all the yellow jackets at once
sawing between marrow and skin,
you pace, sit, pace, the kneading tricks
fail, and you feel the fool for wincing,
your dead father says Walk it off,
walk it off, self-pity is a garish shirt
all rhinestones and you, so you pound
on the calf, beat one mark to blot
out another, the unreachable hurt
fades as the self-made surfaces
and you wish back yesterday’s soft rain
as thin as sloughed skin, you long
to wear it like a shawl and you think
you remember your mother buttering
your burned hand, you know she stops
a bleeding knee with gauze and tape,
and later, the fever, blood poisoning’s
red stripe up your leg, she puts you
in a cab with no way to pay doctor
or hack, she smiles like Lauren Bacall,
as if beauty and prayer are collateral,
she waves, exhales a zephyr
of Chesterfield smoke, deftly picks
tobacco from her tongue, and slowly
disappears like this ache and the idea of it.

by Kevin Miller

The sycamore is our sky, home,
it has our backs, away, it is the tall kid
back row center.  Mornings I bow
to the arc of the sycamore, it fans

the horizon all calendar and welcome,
harbors goshawk and crow, steadies
a slum of starlings hell bent on suet
caged for bushtits and squirrel.

We muddle in gravel, lost in hedgerows
and gardens, dogs call the mailman
down the alley of borrow and loan.
In January the ice storm split the tree’s

crown like a bad part in thin hair.
For days we listened to the bone rattle
of glass-cast branches and longed
for the southerlies’ shattering thaw.

It has weathered worse with other lovers.
This week, Margaret appears on our porch
ready to photograph the black scrim
of April clouds lifting new leaves’ fire.

Thursday, everyone else off to work,
wind and birdsong pull me from play.
In the coronet of the sycamore,
a cloud of one hundred goldfinches

each a dot in a leaf’s yellow eye.
They appear like an overlay, the crest
sways—a dome of tapers fired with song.

by Kevin Miller

tell the one about your uncle who becomes
the empty shirt, tell the part where he pulls
single socks from sleeves as if city hawks
killed all his rabbits, tell how you saw
him when his tricks worked as planned,
when sleight of hand had nothing to do
with shoplifting, before clumsy disguises
trailed him like tasseled quail mocking
his crooked toupee, tell how he sang Sinatra
through cigar smoke the highball ice forever
almost-spilling on your aunt’s carpet.
Don’t forget the part about your wedding,
his toast, tell the kids what he said
about fallen away Catholics and the Jews
Ulysses, then tell what your father said.


Kevin Miller is the author of three collections of poetry.  His
most recent,
Home & Away: The Old Town Poems, was
published by Pleasure Boat Studio in 2009.  Miller taught in the
public schools of Washington State for thirty-nine years.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 10, Number 1
(Spring 2015)

Copyright © 2015
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.