Poem of the Week | February 20, 2017

This week, we are excited to present a new poem by Corey Miller. Miller was born in Herrin, Illinois and holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers. Poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Boston Review, Kenyon Review, Best New Poets 2014, and elsewhere.

Author’s note:

I think all of my poems, whether they’re actually addressed to someone or not, are written with someone “in mind” – they’re anecdotes between us. If not, I’d never have the courage necessary to make the language as idiosyncratic as is required of both poetry and real intimacy between humans.

Whenever I’m recounting an old story with a friend or friends, I like to think that some single person exists between/among us who holds that memory intact. Take for instance the time my friend Abe, completely unprompted, called me “Corny Milner” at dinner, and for whatever reason my friend Karim could not stop laughing at this joke, a joke that, like any good poem, contains its own critique: it’s corny. As the night was ending, I seriously had to ask Karim if he needed a ride home because he was in hysterics and I was worried about him scooting off in his condition. Somewhere out there, Corny Milner exists and his sole purpose is to preserve this single memory.

The poem “Nephew,” is a third person who exists between me and my youngest nephew Cooper, specifically the dressed-up version of him I encountered on a trip home for Christmas. Since he was three at the time it was written, that person is full of fantasy and awe and, since I was twenty-three at that time, that person is full of absurd explanations and a yearning to provide guidance but a lack of authority. If they’re a true average of us, the speaker is thirteen, his name is Corper, and he has a fondness for a sno-cone flavor named “Tiger’s Blood.”


N e p h e w ,


put on your argyle socks
and blazer and Sunday-best pacifier
so you can dress your mother up in laughter
So you can pretend to be a hurricane
though you’re really just a low-pressure front
In fifth grade I watched a twenty-year-old Britney Spears
dress up like a fifth grader
I thought to commiserate
with my situation particularly
but please do not attempt this
Listen to how
the very last maple leaf
of autumn feels when the wind cuts it down
with its breath like a missive
ornately stamped with wine-walloped wax, a letter which rode
the air all the way from a distant relative
to inform you someone died you didn’t know at all
But do not collapse on the floor    Do not pucker your lips
like a longhorn cowfish and invite the neighborhood
in for crumpets and a cup of kisses unless they are Anglophiles
Unless they too have been informed
of a loss, in which case, go ahead as planned but kiss them all authentically
You are young but so is death   I fear I understood it better
at your age, by which I mean I had a greater distance from my subject
by which I mean sometimes pretentious writers will say
they don’t have enough distance to see a subject clearly
but you should believe them paradoxically anyway
And listen to how the wind will blame a bonnet-eyed boy
with scissors for this last leaf falling
The wind might even blame you
and if I can I’ll be there
with Orion’s belt
in my mouth strapped across my teeth
like an orange rind   I hope this absurdity will help
with the wind’s scapegoating
and it just might   If you fall in love
with a serious woman
(I recommend this if you’re too spritely of heart)
spread roses around her bath
like ashes at sea   Like the ashes of Blackbeard
who loved the sea more than any
portside woman
though you could never love a woman enough for her
to carry your ashes forever
which is only sad
when you forget