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poetry The New Superstitions

Oregon poet Amy Miller responds to the “inappropriate behavior” of celebrities, lamenting “the hypervigilance that women live with daily.”

The New Superstitions

By Amy Miller


When the movie starts, cross yourself

for all the nights and weekends

lost by the long lists of workers, for the ones

who got sick and quit the business, who blew

all their money on shrinks, for the one

who got beaned by an ashtray thrown

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by the petulant star.

Walking by a playground, throw bark

over your left shoulder as you watch

the little boy tease the girl, the budding man

inside him rising like a fist.

Wear your lucky slob clothing while you watch

the movie of the man playing a slob, his sideways

sneer like your own while you crash daily

into the obstacles of love and faith, while you try

to balance a coffee in one hand and your childish

expectations in the other, while holding

in the fold of your belly a fear of being made a fool,

of loving a photo of someone or maybe an actual body

living right there with you, who has always set off

your alarms but you choose to think they’re only

your own irrational blood pounding

in your ears for no real reason.

On the sidewalk, step over every doubt. You have

no room for them. You are busy and you want

to like what you like and go to bed without

a nagging thought that burrows in and wakes up

your body at 2 am, whirring in the dark.

Do not walk under the ladder of your friendly

neighbor, who has always been too friendly and

damn it, you don’t want to think that, you want to be

stoned on kindness like a yoga teacher, but you also

have caught him looking down from his upstairs window

late at night while you’re bringing in the trash can and

damn it, that’s never felt right.

If you break your car’s side mirror you’ll get seven years

of some guy watching you eat lunch as you sit in the safety

of your ‘67 Cougar before you realize his face hasn’t moved

from his mirror and he’s watching you steadily, sitting

in his car in the next row in the lot, bouncing you off

a 45-degree angle and making some motion you see

just enough of to know, and you start your car

and drive away nonchalantly as if you didn’t notice,

watching in your mirror to make sure he doesn’t follow.

While you watch the movie, light incense to bring you

back to yourself, to remind you that you are living here

now, that the world has always had dickheads, that you

are not sitting with one right now, and outside a frog

has started up croaking behind the hawthorn bush,

and he’s talking about sex and maybe some aggression

but you know exactly where he’s coming from,

and you’re not a frog so it’s just a song, something

that lulls you to sleep, as all lullabies are darker

and more dangerous than you once believed, but even

sleep is now something different, not entirely pure

but it has its pleasures, its emptying, its motionless beauty.

Amy Miller’s poetry and nonfiction have appeared in Barrow Street, Copper Nickel,

Gulf Coast, RHINO, Terrain, Tupelo Quarterly, and ZYZZYVA. Her books include

Astronauts (Chad Walsh Chapbook Prize, Beloit Poetry Journal) and The Trouble with

New England Girls (Louis Award, Concrete Wolf Press). She received a 2021 Oregon

Literary Fellowship.