“Hang Float Burn Bury” by David Miller

David Miller


a. Things that hang:
– Yarcombe Vancouver
– the gardens of Babylon
– Ithaca on its rocky perch
– the morning star
– at a turn in a stream
– steelhead trout in their surge congregate
– like blackberries in the wet heat of July
– cheesecloth sweating
– goat milk
– straw and black streaks in my daughter’s hair
– the discourse between
– bow
– arrow
– breath
– glass opening its feathers
– on impact
– wheels on a ruptured axle
– tires from a stainless steel hook
– in a gym ceiling
– resting on air like albatrosses
– her blue-black hair braided down her spine
– rickety but brilliant theater marquees
– blood in the neck
– blood in the eyes, in the tongue
– lips feet hands
– the blue, blue head
– the skin empty of soul

b. Things that float:
– Whatever has been drowned
– light and dust in an empty room
– bread, apples, cider, gravy
– my daughter’s arms and legs on the pool’s bright skin
– uncertain winds and currents
– the smell of brake fluid and burnt steel
– smelting tin
– our trust in God
– the bottle with the MS, half-blurred by salt
– a creeping riot of
– swimmers in a river’s current
– hair around dieffenbachia
– the bellies of middle-aged men in summer lakes
– gossip and its inconsistencies
– the weight and the chain
– the song of the sirens
– alligators with their double-skinned eyes
– conversations in dreams
– feathering atop the dusty air
– suicides and weather balloons
– public opinion and crises
– churches, lead, ducks, mothers
– whatever refuses to stay drowned

c. Things that burn:
– Hot Cheetos
– the sealant around a car gasket
– a bullet wound
– the tips of braids while bored in geometry
– the hills outside La Canada
– water when my brother boils it
– Pan Am Flight 102,
– over the brick-and-shingle houses of Lockerbie
– smoke in the green Georgia night
– boiling up from burning tires
– the ash that drowned Pompeii and Herculaneum
– the steel joists of the World Trade Center (at varying rates)
– the morning sky over Sodom and Gomorrah
– Dido
– the synagogues on the edge of Sobibor
– desecrated crosses
– cattle-brands
– my daughter’s bones
– my Soul

d. Things that are buried:
– the Soul
– applause, the sustain of a violoncello, adoration
– the music of Ma Rainey and Sleepy John Estes
– the fire in my daughter’s high
– cheekbones, so high, so crisp
– the catechism in her smile
– my first dog, in the sleeping bag he tore apart
– gray paths through broad hills and
– the straw-and-black limbs of trees
– frozen earth and bottles of Yuengling
– broken cement, splinters of smelt
– loopholes
– the cyanotic waters of the Monongahela
– under feathers of ice
– my daughter’s laughter as she hung onto Pokemon Go!
– my daughter’s eyes when fear or exhaustion burned them
– my daughter’s songs firing up dark January mornings
– strange fruit of American rhetoric
– rag torn from Justice’s eyes
– the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
– compassion

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017


David Miller: “Another year of teaching Latin, another year I will have to tell my students how to behave among white people at Latin conventions, at the Getty, at plays. It is always difficult to do. I do not know whether I make a difference by doing that. It is like the advice we give our own children to help them survive the world. This poem is a reflection of that uncertainty, of the pain of loss and the ambivalence of time.” (twitter)

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