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Wayne L. Miller

Corporate Theatre

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—
Founder. Investor.
Manager. Employee.

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,
get-it-over-with smile.

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.

* * *

Repast

orange juice yellow beets brown bread
once more she sets the table

arranging dishes
placing napkins

forks spoons knives
centering chairs by placemats

then placemats by chairs
tureen vegetable soup steam

cold salads covered
no grapefruit spoons or fish forks

yet again
she checks the simmering roast

reverently adjusting burners
almost hot enough

for bellies full
of memories

to start with
blue corn chips green salsa black olives

inviting me she
touches my shoulder

* * *

Acknowledgements

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
an agreed-upon
contractual
period.

* * *

Direction

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?

Yes.

She asked the boyfriend,
So, you love her? You want to marry her?

Yes.

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.

* * *

Chocolate

You always bought the local product,
a balance of salt and pungent,
but I like the blue tin,
bitter with chili oil.

Tasting,
its like pressing
your fingernails
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
Empty

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 look

See

Nothing there

Empty

Just some dust
Under the rock

* * *

Squids

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,
love.

 


 

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.

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