Vox Populi

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Carolyn Miller: Three Poems

Spring Branch, River
Ridge, ridgeline, spring branch, bobwhite,
loss. And the long, black-green strands of water moss
growing in the spring branch, the whole length
of the dark, icy water filled with it, streaming
toward the river, the warm brown odorous
Big Piney, clogged at its edges with water lilies
and memory: the fishermen who floated by our camp
and stopped to give us orange juice,
my father when he smoked cigars, the wild green
swelling cloud of leaves around us, the echo spot
my brother found, dragonflies and minnows,
the overpowering smell of river in the sun,
my brother skipping stones, how we stood
at that one place where you could hear the echo
and took turns calling out: Hello! Hello! Hello!

Fast Food
Sometimes after piano lessons on Capp Street
or ballet class in the Richmond, 
my two young daughters and I would drive
in our red Toyota station wagon to 
the Jack in the Box on Lombard, then wait 
our turn in the line up to the window, where I, 
the mother, would ask for what we wanted: 
one grilled chicken sandwich, four tacos, 
three French fries, three orange sodas, and just like that, 
they were handed to me—hot, icy, salty, sweet—
and we parked in a nearby alley and opened 
the crisp red-and-white paper sacks and the small
containers of ketchup and sauce, smell of food 
blooming in the closed room of the car, 
paper cups of soda and little squares of ice clinking,
dark outside the windows, ceiling light on inside.

My Mother, Watering the Flowers
She grew flowers out of the rocky Missouri soil. 
She made flowerbeds ringed with rocks dug from the hillside:
a round one for spring bulbs, one for canna lilies
and zinnias, another for petunias and pansies, and 
a peony bed by the sun room, plus two long beds 
of snapdragons and tiger lilies and naked ladies, 
then red floribunda roses by the garage and all along 
the concrete-block retaining wall, and a dahlia bed
edged with Iceland poppies out by blacktop road, 
flowers that flickered and glowed in the summer sun, 
great shaggy heads of dahlias flaming against the sky 
over the valley, so that people stopped their cars 
near the gravel driveway just to sit and look.
And in the evening, after the sun had set 
and the birds were alighting in the trees, my mother, 
in her housedress and apron and cheap leather shoes 
and my father’s dress socks, went out to water the flowers
with the green rubber hose, visiting each bed in turn 
in the fading light, priestess of the sacred offerings, 
keeper of the holy flames.

Copyright 2021 Carolyn Miller

Carolyn Miller’s publications include Light, Moving (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2009) and Route 66 and its Sorrows (Terrapin Books, 2017). She lives in San Francisco.

One comment on “Carolyn Miller: Three Poems

  1. Barbara Huntington
    March 29, 2021

    Other people’s memories lead to my memories. Carolyn Miller’s mother’s dahlias, my mother’s dahlias. Morning reverie.

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on March 29, 2021 by in Environmentalism, Poetry and tagged , , , .

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