FRATNEY MILLER | MADISON, WI

Are you haunting me, Wyoming?

             like a long-ago dream, or a lover lost 
That rich voice, like garden soil
or the rumble of big skies;
that breath of sweetness,
inhaled, never a kiss;
that dizzying Great Plains petrichor;
searching your landscape for an invisible mountain range of scars;
drifting through your rivers’ depths;
drinking your shadows, at the bottom of the night.
Countless buds of questions, to blossom on my tongue in a springtime that can’t come.
Do you satisfy your women?
Do you circumcise your sons?
Do you hold deep stone-locked grudges,
or does your punishing weather stay with you?
How deep are your lakes, and how safe are your islands?
And where is it these trains are going, singing those siren-songs?
Can you ever know you’ve saved me?
Can I ever pay you back?
Take me apart – limb by limb and line by line.
Take everything I have, and give me only what you will;
a sigh like a long drive in an old truck, broad hand on my knee;
a gaze bright like wild fruit,
or new buttons on an old dress;
or maybe a letter full of nothing but night,
whose postmark says more than the world’s words.

My toddler asks my favorite flower;
It’s the first time he knows that we aren’t the same body.
I show him lilacs on the next block. My always and forever.
We agree we’ll share until he knows his own favorite, the way I bake his father’s cake both birthdays.
By next year, he most loves dandelion puffs; I smile he might live in delight,
   sleep without blankets,
       arms flung overhead in perfect security,
           chuckling gently through baby dreams.
The waxing days are raw and sharp.
They are lunchbox toads and local elections,
Patched jeans, waiting lists, rhubarb in interim pies that count down the days before fruit.
Small lessons of sweetness in bitter
Another year, another spring, another walk, we pass the tired brick mansion where I lost my meager everything.
    Before my arms were strong from the weight of sleeping children,
       before my voice grew loud from yelling in the streets,
          before my spirit weighed more than a crow could carry off,
             before love.
It has old wooden windows that I know bleed winter air,
And plaster ceilings that don’t melt if you stare an hour.
There are still kayaks on the drooping porch, same ratty garden in the yard.
I always look, and can’t look.
In a gasp, my children scale the chain link, trespass impervious, miniature white men entitled to the world,
Dig in their dozens of pockets until chubby kindergarten hands find tiny eager edges. A multi-tool, a shard of tile.
They tear me a wild last bouquet of lilacs, stolen from a tree I once watered with tears.
    We walk home with the music of young girls’ violins,
        the taste of black chocolate, sugared only by prayer,
            and those blossoms that carry me almost away.
Il y a longtemps…
You slept under the stars without me
I spent the night with your books
I stared into your fire
So many fires
And one antique love song
I found your shirt, slept tangled in it
Knitted my hair into the wool of your hat
Pledged you my body every time you walked barefoot
Lost my soul when I kohled your eyes
I ate the ash from your cigarette
Stolen from the sand and sneaked onto my tongue in ecstatic devotion
I kissed your bride
Swam naked at your wedding
Burned garlic on your stove
Slipped your silver onto my thumb
Grew up and turned into somebody else
But when it rains on the lake, I sometimes hear that guitar.

Fratney Miller

fratney miller

Website for the Zaleski Law Firm and related pages produced and maintained by Fratney Miller.