An act performed with stock props—
common avarice, preferred prayer,
garaged convertibles, arrest warrants.
Setting: a dimly-lit office—
boxed files, encrypted evidence,
accrued interest, hollowed equity.
Enter the four players—
A shroud falls after the first scene of
hushed negotiations, rash decisions,
turnaround specialists, legal execution.
Time of death? Written on a form filed by men of habit,
a notice sent to the local business rag,
a remark whispered in a pub— the company foundered.
The as-yet uncontaminated engrave an epitaph on the vault door—
Available, after the lawyers scrub out the stink of failure.
Of the stricken within— a rotting corp, with hands folded.
Recyclable employees claw into vertical positions,
managers supplicate quotations for furniture and fixtures,
founders stiffen attitudes, bury emails, spawn excuses.
Office equipment is consigned to a resting place—
disposal men grasp them by their attached cables
and file out, precisely positioning each into a black van.
Responsibility? Blame this! Blame that! Sue the consultant!
When driving by a seven car pileup, the officers direct:
move along, there are no lessons to be learned here.
Missed opportunities and fumbled execution
play no role because— well, just because.
Let’s raise money for our next brilliant idea.
* * *
Kitchen Wall Picture Frame
His high school graduation
picture arrives in the mail—
white shirt, black tie,
I bend four prongs,
remove the backing,
then flip through
department store poses
and yearbook headshots.
My earworm awakens—
Elmo, Raffi, Tom Chapin,
some alternative band from Boston.
* * *
orange juice yellow beets brown bread
once more she sets the table
forks spoons knives
centering chairs by placemats
then placemats by chairs
tureen vegetable soup steam
cold salads covered
no grapefruit spoons or fish forks
she checks the simmering roast
reverently adjusting burners
almost hot enough
for bellies full
to start with
blue corn chips green salsa black olives
inviting me she
touches my shoulder
* * *
Many people, other than the authors, contribute to the making of a book… It is not customary to acknowledge the trees themselves, though their commitment is total.
— Forsyth and Rada, Machine Learning, Ellis Horwood Ltd, 1986
I would especially like to thank the one thousand trees
behind my parent’s house, the former state-protected forest,
which were leveled to become low-end condos for commuters,
who themselves would never thank any part of the former forest
for their new machine-dug, foundationed, wood framed abode,
nor would they be conscious that their signed offer papers,
derived from the sun and rain processed over many years
by the tree’s bodies with the support of many species
that maintained and adjusted an emergent ecology
for eons, comprise a warrant for the execution
of the real estate within
* * *
My grandfather’s eldest brother, Sam,
a widower with three daughters,
had little understanding of girls.
The youngest was keeping company
with a boy for too long. My grandmother
asked them both to dinner.
During dessert, she asked his daughter,
So, you love him? You want to marry him?
She asked the boyfriend,
So, you love her? You want to marry her?
She picked up a calendar and placed it in front of them.
Pick a date.
* * *
Joe and George
Now, if someone sees two unmarked trucks
parked on a Brooklyn street,
each with an old guy selling candy to kids,
they call the cops.
In 1966, we knew them by their first names.
George is driving up! Joe’s here!
They sold thirty types of candy,
hot dogs, small toys, Spaldeens,
and baseball cards (with or without gum)
from dirt-smeared trucks that landed
on our street every day after school.
We would run up, line up, step up,
grab some candy, pay a few coins, say fewer words.
Sometimes we asked for a special baseball card.
They would charge extra to keep a look-out.
Once, when I saw his truck leaving, I yelled George!
He stopped— I got my sugar rush.
I probably didn’t thank him.
We never asked who they were—
last names, wives, children,
where they lived.
When the story got around
that one of them took a piss in a jar,
it hurt their business.
We didn’t think.
We just laughed.
* * *
You always bought the local product,
a balance of salt and pungent,
but I like the blue tin,
bitter with chili oil.
its like pressing
into your palm
as a nurse draws blood—
the bitterness flows quickly on top of the heat.
I’ll buy some for next month.
* * *
The way it is done
Gimme a coke. When’s the pie gonna be ready?
Brooklyn pizza is made thin, with a ladle of oil.
There were only a few toppings:
mushrooms, peppers, onions, pepperoni, sausage.
Fresh out of the oven,
expect second degree burns on the roof of your mouth.
You get used to it.
Fold the slice lengthwise or the front collapses—
all the cheese slides into the plate, orange oil pours down.
Use a fork to piece it back together
and be prepared for bare spots—
appreciate good crust.
The real original certified
New York Magazine winning Ray’s Pizza
was at 6th and 11th in the city, toppings piled four inches high.
Accept no imitation.
Never ever eat pizza with a fork. Except Ray’s.
First pizza memory— 1964, 15¢ a slice,
jukebox playing ‘She Loves You’,
‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’.
My parents demonstrated—
how to hold a slice, how to recover from cheese spills.
She loves pizza.
I want to hold your pie.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
* * *
Wrap Her Voice
Up on the stage, she slowly waves her hands over her head
Her ethereal song lifting all those around her
Singing as an angel
An ancient spirit is upon her
Afterwards, the techs wrap her voice
In a large blanket rolled around and around
To tightly fit roadie case #15
For transport to the next venue
Unpacked fifteen minutes before climbing onto the arena stage
She tests her voice and prepares for her call
He said that they should not silence her melody
Her sound should flow as freely as the wind
So she can answer the birds outside
And sing to her children
He begged her to think about her sacrifices
He reminded her that her voice is owned by her and not by her manager
She glanced at him, and he knew, more than if she spoke a thousand words
Her decision and her destiny
On the stage, she looks at him standing in the front row
As she sings of love
He looks back, mouthing his response
And she slowly smiles, as a woman, as an angel, as a star
* * *
Under The Rock
There is nothing under the rock
Just some dust
Synthesized in a supernova crushing a cloud of gas into a new star
Five billion years ago
Fossilized shell remnants from a nautilus
Five hundred million years ago
Flakes cleaved off of a boulder when a pebble hit it during a hurricane
Fifty million years ago
Gastroliths from a crocodile eating nearby
Five million years ago
Colored pebbles gathered by a bowerbird displaying for a mate
Five hundred thousand years ago
Hills ground down from the ice covering the continent
Fifty thousand years ago
Grime dropped from a shoe of a man hunting antelope
Five thousand years ago
Ashes from a fire the wounded men danced around
Five hundred years ago
Coal from a steam train passing nearby
Fifty years ago
Construction debris from building new condominiums
Five years ago
Carpet sweepings from an unhappy home
Five months ago
Smoke from birthday candles for a one hundred year old woman
Five days ago
Sand placed by ants excavating their nest underneath
Five seconds ago
Just some dust
Under the rock
* * *
Below the air-sky, above the sea-ground,
Within the world of left, right, forward, back, up, down, spin, loop, and dance,
Squids move in unison, then apart.
Rise and fall, males to the left, females to the right, reverse, mix.
Patterns on the skin, pictures, follow-me, be-mine, I-am-for-you,
the males display.
The females joyously choose,
should it be this one?
should it be that one?
Her large eyes see, the female locks the pattern of the male, then responds,
All colors, both in sync, dance, stripes, play, circles,
spin, spots, touch, red, loop.
Pairs across the water-field, in the green sea-grasses,
hide, touch, white,
About Wayne L. Miller
Wayne L. Miller lives in Northern New Jersey. His work has been published in Arc Poetry Magazine, Paterson Literary Review, LIPS, Great Falls Anthology, Narrative Northeast, Turtle Island Quarterly, The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow, theEEEL, The Long-Islander (Walt’s Corner), Instigatorzine, and Edison Literary Review.
His blog is at http://WayneLMiller.info.
Wrap Her Voice and Squids appeared in The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow #6. Acknowledgements, Direction, Joe and George, Chocolate, and The way it is done appeared in The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow #7. Corporate Theatre, Kitchen Wall Picture Frame, and Repast appeared in The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow #8. Under The Rock appeared in Turtle Island Quarterly.