Pamela Miller – Three Poems


Double Love Song, with Toads
     Mistranslated from Georg Trakl

O, dear Albert,
sleeping in your window of kindhearted guilt.
Dear questioner under the weeds.
Fill me with your warp-speed
suffering, dear squirmer.

O, dear Waldo, dear liaison,
sinking in the brownness of August.
My auspicious Einstein with shaky hands.
Write me succulent poems full of
teenage instinct, dear purple-breasted señor.

O, the names of toads. The lassitude of beets.
All I desire from you two boys
is a lost night of laundered kisses.
Gild me with your vibrant branches!
Dear double lovers, gliding on a smattering of wings.


Contemplating the Future at Sixty-Five
     Cento from Amy Gerstler

Come winter, I’m due to wash into
that burgeoning unearthly glow
in all its voluptuous glory.
I plan to make a grand entrance
robed in clusters of bubbles,
a clamshell bodice and tiny silver cobras.
Don’t think I spend my nights brooding.
I know a thing or two about the path ahead
unfurling like an intricate cloud pattern.
Had my mother lived I could have taught her this:
When so much else has fallen away,
seeds disperse on the wind.
Sit down gently and ready your weapons for spring.
Whisper the following as the curtain descends:
A final fiery sip. OK. Time to go.

Invoking the Muse at Sixty-Five
     Cento from Judith Johnson Sherwin

Come down from that clean room
at the top of your head
Burst out of your four wits’ brilliance
Be too loud for everyday wear:
red swinging hair
and arms of a flying carpet
Pull up with combs the wet chords roaring
Chew out the roots in windy ditches
Shake the bones out,
white on white on white
Pick through these leavings,
this reckoning from a disaster area
Grow into a questionable maturity
beyond chart to measure the path
Lie out to stretch under your heat
Sing out the watch you keep,
eyes unfocused, head turning continually
under the snapping stars
Go rehearsing glorious laughter
more resonant than alchemy
Come down to some feel of the poem
stripped to one clear, unspeakable wail


Author’s Statement on Beauty

As a poet whose work has been described as “absurdist,” “quirky” and “zany,” I tend to look for and discover beauty in unconventional, even strange places. I also use my imagination to move beauty from places where it’s usually found and relocate it to somewhere it isn’t supposed to be. Moonlight is beautiful when it’s shimmering on Lake Huron or silver-plating the Taj Mahal at midnight, but my poems want to pour moonlight into the waffle iron. Flowers are beautiful whether they’re in an English walled garden or an elegant crystal vase in the lobby of a grand hotel. But in my poems, they’re more likely to be growing on the horns of a giraffe.

Who says beauty can’t sometimes be bizarre? Or silly? I often find beauty in those weird moments that suddenly burble up from beneath the surface of mundane everyday life. I once saw a man who was walking down a crowded Chicago sidewalk while wrapped in a huge white sousaphone, its bell blossoming above his head like some gigantic morning glory. I once saw a grown man blithely skipping down the street in Milwaukee with an expression of unadulterated joy on his face. In all probability he was either drunk or mentally ill, but at that moment he looked lovely to me.

When I write, I try to not only gaze up in wonder at the waterfalls and meteor showers but also peek beneath a few rocks to see what oddly shaped forms of beauty might be lurking under there. In my favorite poem of all time, Kenneth Koch’s “Fresh Air”—a hilarious manifesto against boring, stuffy, navel-gazing poetry—he admonishes a bunch of overly academic poets: “Did you ever glance inside a bottle of sparkling pop,/Or see a citizen split in two by the lightning?/ … Is there no one who feels like a pair of pants?”


Pamela Miller has published four books of poetry, most recently Miss Unthinkable (Mayapple Press, 2013). Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in RHINO, New Poetry from the Midwest 2017, Pirene’s Fountain, MAYDAY and many other journals and anthologies. With poet Bill Yarrow, she is co-founder of the No Crying in Poetry critique group in Chicago.