“The landscape is pleasure sidekicked with fear.” So says the speaker of one of David Miller’s poems in Sprawled Asleep. In this collection, the landscape of the world is pillaged and repurposed by an observer with an astonishing acuity of vision. His observations translate into poems by the agency of a wordsmithery which maneuvers between sagacity and self-parody, between affectionate frankness and nostalgic sangfroid. Very little escapes the eyes and ears of David Miller, a poet who breathes his vibrant catalogues into a torch that welds lyrical dismay together with ecstatic clear-headedness. Sprawled Asleep is a remarkable accomplishment.
— Tom Daley, author of House You Cannot Reach
Leaflet on Walking
Child’s slalom around stodgy grownup legs after church.
Granite blocks afford chance foot massage.
November leaf-muck sets inline rollers beneath the soles.
Is Walking for Me?
Five inches of erupted streetcar tracks.
Blue pen caricatures on Styrofoam shards wedged into
Swallowed coastline incised in paving stone.
How Do I Get Started?
Hands off the sofa’s velour arm: two steps pell-mell
facedown to the carpet.
A stranger’s elbow at the curb as the bus sighs open.
That swarm behind the breastbone at the doorsill: the
What About Side Effects?
Five miles of heartbreak pounded through the ankles.
Downpour-drenched clothes worn to the smokehouse.
Four hands become three as two ramble the riverbank.
Are There Support Groups in My Area?
Downtown gaggles baffle the orange Wait hand.
Thin sidle past double baby carriage as suitcases roll
through the portal.
Eyes met, downcast, eyes shifted, eyes bore straight
To Learn More
Graffiti-plastered brick factory vanished from the map.
Opaque quartz massaged by Sound waters.
Former opossum crumbled at the stone bridge.
Stony Brook, Granite
Stony Brook shears the corner of Martin’s
Barber Shop, makes five sides of a rectangle.
Tunneled under the path rising to the park,
Stony Brook repudiates buildings’ weight.
Pass the barber and a patch of nine corn plants,
three staked tomatoes. Cultivado
por voluntarios, says the stubbed wood stake.
The path paved over water lifts to the green.
Alternate-leaf dogwood throws a runner
of cream petals over pavement. Pines,
then oaks, fall away toward quick-built
mansard homes for brewery workers. Stony Brook
was fed on brewer’s waste. Fouled and buried.
At the basketball court, taut-bodied parents
teach their sons skateboarding. Mom
with blue wings inked about her shoulder blades,
water and snacks in a Trader Joe’s bag. Dad
in rainbow reggae t-shirt and camo shorts.
Two shaghead boys practice not falling off.
Rough granite blocks scored with rips and drill holes
edge the ball court, pocket gardens, paved meanders.
Lifted down from an embankment that raised a railbed,
down to comfort the park with stone.
At the green’s far end, five raise yogic torsos
from the earth. They rise where the railbed isn’t.
Across the street, the subway station names
the Brook, interred, flowing, and forgotten.
The window glass is old and ripples light.
The trampoline next door is still.
A spray of branches rooted out of sight
wavers just above the sill.
A spate of morning sparrows leaps to eat
while squirrels glean bird-feeder spill.
Ailanthus leaves lie guttered in the street
as shadows slip from siding, down
to vanish at the margin where yards meet.
December opens mild and brown.
Neighbor fences waver through the glass.
Outside the window, bamboo sounds
its winter clack, suspended in a mass
of brittle voices, chimed and bright.
after the music of Ross Bolletter
Goggled men in orange jackets
take sledgehammers to a bootless piano,
a swayback banished to pasture.
The only sounds the creature utters
the crackings of wood flown to fragments,
whack of soundboard fallen to
concrete. Or sent end over end
down two flights to the parking lot,
as a turtle meets a mean boy
with a ball peen.
These are smashed pianos.
These are not ruined pianos.
Set a fire inside an old upright.
Place it upon a stone plaza at dusk.
A fireplace of wood,
falling to char. Tongueless,
strings melted, its only sound
the roiling of flames against air.
This is an auto-da-fé’d piano.
It is not a ruined piano.
A ruined piano was pushed to the all-weather porch
and forgotten, or escorted out to the barn.
A ruined piano wandered outdoors
and nobody called it back home.
Immigrant ruined pianos were left on the shore.
A ruined piano waits in the rehearsal room
as accompanists stroke the younger piano.
A ruined piano won’t speak as it should.
Stuck zipper voice. It smiles
and a drawerful of forks falls to the floor.
Table-sawn syllables. Step dance
in a suitcase of mud. Chime clusters
tuned to its brainwaves. Notes fricate
back of its teeth. Coughs collapse
into its body, ricochet metal spit.
Aluminum ice storms. Tobacco-wrecked gabble.
Temple bells made of old pans. Horseshoe nails
against slate. Warehouse of domino-fallen
doorframes. Dump truck emptying granite.
Heartbeat of ball bearings. Clacked bones
in the throat.
A ruined piano, wedding gift
for a perfect pitch mother. A ruined piano
cuddles field mice. A ruined piano
somehow came with the house.
A ruined piano is at least
out of the way.
Half the Day is Night
Crisp in the ears, and crisp beneath your shoes,
the chill shelters your skin, crackles around
your feet. The shock of color massed in canopies
is silence, muted mind, dilated sight.
The equinox at autumn is a hinge,
a pivot tacking August sog and scrape
to winter’s pulse stripped to astringent breath.
Mind clarifies as summer’s malice dies.
I sit outside this dark September night.
The hand of dusk across my heart, my spine
caressed by stillness. The listening to come
to what there is to hear when nothing is to hear.
Now half the day is night. Trees shed
their excess as leaves die in brilliance.
David P. Miller’s chapbook The Afterimages was published by Červená Barva Press. He received degrees in theater at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and Emerson College, and librarianship from Simmons College. For twenty-five years, he was a member of the Mobius Artists Group of Boston, creating his own performance art pieces and collaborating on performances of original experimental work, as well as pieces by John Cage, Gertrude Stein, and Jackson Mac Low. In 2018, he retired from Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts, where he was a librarian for twenty-six years. A resident of Boston since 1978, he lives in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood with his wife, the visual artist Jane Wiley.
Copyright © 2019 David P. Miller
Cover photograph by Jane Wiley
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.
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