Response to Casey Fuller’s Essay “Ending the Poems”
Was Wonder Less Accessible?
The forsythia in fog is cousin to one in sun, cousins from an angle turn twin, an echo. Sounds change in fog, and yellow is one of the colors the dog sees, an old dog returns to familiar haunts, circles, settles in a way that is not surrender, what rain says to the short show of blossom is enough promise for now.
Less and Less?
In the wooden wine box where no wine lives stacked postcards record small excursions. The wonder of mail travel bears the shadow of closed metal boxes, leather bags, & weather. On a good day the carrier might stop, sit on a step, sip water, and read lines exchanged cross-country. Who continues to volley these short tosses, why?
Did I try?
Every day I face the keys with one notion— I have the inside shot at most improved. I tell my grandson two things: Five years from now this will mean nothing, and No one can make you quit.
Did People Stop Reading?
When wild forsythia appeared through the laurel, I remembered banks of votives the Polish woman set alight each morning before Mass. She mouthed prayers through missing teeth, flecks of spit and the odd syllable appeared as we watched in wonder. She wore a scarf knotted beneath her chin, wrapped her thick fingers in a rosary. Once a boy played in church, she grabbed his ear, lifted him to his feet and moved him to her pew. When people stop reading, she will not have been.
Was the page purer white somehow?
You made white the loss of blood in the face of the boy watching Benny Kid Parret fall to canvas. Fights on the box stay in black and white, and fathers’ stories line like pulp fiction for boys eager to know, when white made the background square for the Lucky Strike red heart, and smoke clouds delivered the spoken word, the dragons in our lives were all about fire.
Did I repeat: I can no longer-I can no longer?
Craig McNeely had mediocre speed, a decent curve, and a dry-ice will to win. At bat, he crowded the plate, fouled off as many pitches as he could until he topped a slow ground ball—unless there were men on base. With men on, his chop followed a step back in order to strike leather the certainty of interference his money stroke. Sometimes the way through is around.
Did I feel lost?
My friend who carried the mail in the Republic of Portland mapped a city in faces, screen doors filtered lives in excessive heat. He had a heart for the feral cat, a stolen bike, a postcard in need of a good reading. When I lose my sense of direction, his shoe-miles make the circuit on hot pavement, a bottle of water means something, the woman behind the curtain knows he will find her home.
Could I still hear the honey the clouds parting at the start of a first line?
To trick myself into forgetting one hundred failures, I start with what is, say this robin in the birdbath, say bare fir bows, say the mold on the gate leading to the green belt. Recognize: no bees, no honey. Wait for buses, wait for the bell, wait for the question I cannot answer to make the first line.
Because I could no longer hand-stitch my journals.
I first saw a thimble playing Monopoly, later on the flat top of my grandmother’s foot treadle machine days when sewing was clothes not book binding. Needles & the eye were the rich getting theirs. The suture’s scar keeps in mind the hand- stitched tie of work to work.
Did the time seem ready for long thoughts, deliberation, prose?
On this side of the grass lines lean the same way— end stop or meandering run on verbs, the sound and flurry of provisions kept dry and close, secret systems for collating broken promises close to wishes held after the last candle refuses to smoke.
Could I see—suddenly—that much of my life had been a pulling away to write poems?
The road to the Folsum lighthouse is an asphalt run under the canopy of deciduous trees. I return to the small tower, the black fenders of my bike rattle, the bag of small potatoes purchased with pocket kroner remind me this is not the last stop. Twenty-six years later, I write the scene that plays in my head. At the shore near the point, I face the ocean at the end of my world, the Kattegat, sea reaches toward the dead, the nether place of grandparents, parents, uncles, and lost friends. Away smells of salt and dried seaweed. It is a misaddressed postcard, Bartleby’s dead letter office, a one-man game of catch.
Was the beautiful interplay, that mesh, essentially over?
“It aint over till it’s over,” said the great number eight, Roy Orbison took a poke at it too, the fat lady comes to mind, still, when my friend’s wife found a lover at the community theater, well, sometimes it is, we have to walk away. For years I worked to end things clean- hammer-stroke, drive to finish. It was obsession, a person who must have the final word, until someone showed me an open door, a line with no bullet hole no Katie bar the door, end line and cloud
Kevin Miller lives in Tacoma, Washington. Pleasure Boat Studio published his third collection Home & Away: The Old Town Poems. Miller taught school for 40 years. He drives the Progeny Shuttle from Old Town, Tacoma.