Leslie Adrienne Miller, “Étude”

All my life before him, every word I wrote
had heard the notes turning into air above the pages
and spinning my desire into jail and joy
or memory of someone not quite gone.
Like children in the womb or eggs asleep
in a girl’s all possible, the words I gave to paper
heard whatever I heard and bore the residue
of Janácek and Liszt, Grieg and Shostakovich.

But when I met the man I’d marry, he gave me
names for what I ‘d always loved without a word,
and played his bass beneath, beside and over me,
so I began to listen differently, the symphonies
that once had slipped so easily beneath the page,
suddenly a competition, and every day I turned
the volume down a little more until there was
this silence, these white pages that I offer you,
written without music. Except for the cry

of my child.

From The Resurrection Trade, the fifth collection of Leslie Adrienne Miller’s poems. This poem has appeared in Ploughshares, as have “A Connect-the-Dots Picture” and “Holy Water.”

As Miller explains in an interview for Minnesota Public Radio, the title of this collection comes from the 18th-century practice of robbing graves to supply medical schools with cadavers that could be used to teach anatomy.

17 November 2007 | poetry |

Deborah Keenan, “A Tree Is Not a Human Thing”

A tree is not a human thing, with its feet
In the ground and its back hard against the sky;
It cannot tolerate the small human tendernesses

Moving beneath…

She could see that Shirley Jackson understood.
As one of the guardians, she inspired and oppressed
At the same moment. She became, that summer, another kind

Of hot wind pushing the days forward.

From Willow Room, Green Door: New and Selected Poems, which also contains the Pushcat Prize-winning “August, No Rain.” This particular poem is from the first section of the book, also called “Willow Room, Green Door,” which Keenan regards as one long poem from the summer of 2005.

I wish I could elaborate on the Shirley Jackson allusion, but I confess I’m not well-read enough to place it, and Google offers no help. If you recognize it, please feel free to email me.

16 November 2007 | poetry |

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