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John Miller


Hailing from Eugene Walter’s Kingdom of Monkeys and Ghosts, John Miller was sent so frequently to look up words as a kid that he toted a dictionary to supper. A Pushcart nominee, his poems have appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, Mobius, Rockvale Review, Kindred, and elsewhere. Paper Nautilus published his chapbook, Heat Lightning, in 2017.

Eye of the storm

Thick, tropical winds
strip leaves from branches
in a pelting, rainless storm
that shouts like thousands
of pages of history turning.
Even this far inland, trees
still speak hurricane.

Its strange combination
of whispers and shouts
rattles summer-green leaves.
But this is only the overture,
a season newly begun.
The strongest storms have
always crossed from Africa,

off Gambia and Senegal,
past Île de Gorée, where
La Porte Sans Retour
at the Maison des Esclaves
at last stands open.
Here, deadly gales spawned
long before the Conquistadors
stole the word, hurac’an

from the Taino: the wind’s center
the hurricane’s raging eye.
And tonight, as one storm
disintegrates over the South,
descendants of stolen people
gather across America, towering
like thunderheads to form another.

Wave upon wave of Black suffering,
Black frustration, Black anger,
lash the country with storm-bands
that have built since Jamestown.
And tonight, after 400 years of
White blindness, of White deafness,

protestors recount centuries of struggle
in an all-too corporeal tongue:
each verb quick as a raised fist,
every noun obvious as an open palm.
After all this time, after everything
taken, who wouldn’t cry out
in the language of the unheard?

Pandemic Republic

These days, we bow
but mostly scrape
before a virus named
for its jagged crown:
corona, from curve
a bend sinister,

like the raven’s beak
crooked to rip flesh
to crack bone.
Words like these
are wells, a kind
of time travel that
reveals just how near

we live to our past.
Meaning slumbers
in our tongue,
knits our sense
of what is and can be.
Mask is more
than a face cover,

it is the witch’s scrim,
the veil between
dream and nightmare,
the name for the anvil cloud
that conceals lightning
and trembles with thunder.
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