By William Miller
In the grocery store, in the shadow of the last
working steel mill, we talked about the future,
watched the sky filled with soot and clay.
He was lucky, the boy who’d run between
molten streams, a union boy who did
whatever he was told, all his tomorrows
in a place hotter than hell. But that was life,
the only life his father and grandfather knew.
The sparks that put out eyes bought
a frame house, a yard with a pepper tree
I ran, too, or soon would, farther south,
all the way to a riverbank where
vagrants sleep with knives in their hands.
My father tried to kill me, almost choked
me to death when I said running
north to Canada was better than dying
face down in a rice paddy. My mother
was a harlot ghost, dizzy with speed,
the lure of men who bought her for
a few drinks, a night on the town
if she was lucky. He ran, most likely
to an early grave, and I am running still,
homeless in the wet grass, watching
a coal barge drift slowly by, older by a day.
William Miller's eighth collection of poetry, The Crow Flew Between Us, was published by Kelsay Books (2019). His poems have appeared in many journals, including The Penn Review, The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner and West Branch. He lives and writes in the French Quarter of New Orleans.