Poem of the Week | November 01, 2011

This week we’re proud to feature “The Perfect Gift,” a previously unpublished poem by James Thomas Miller. Miller is from Indianola, Mississippi. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Blackbird and various other journals. He received his MFA from SIU-Carbondale and is almost done with his PhD in Creative Writing at Georgia State University.

Author’s Note:

“The Perfect Gift” is kind of bastardized epithalamium. A woman I used to date and was still in love with called and told me she was getting married to her new boyfriend, so I asked what I could get her for her wedding present. She asked for a poem.

The Perfect Gift

for Elizabeth


What do you buy for those cypress-still afternoons

when her neck chromes with sweat and she nurses

a plastic cup of scotch as “I’ll Come Running”

melts across the honey-thick light of her porch

like a tongueful of wet vicodin? Gift certificates?

A silver chafing dish inscribed Don’t Forget That

Squirrel-hearted Boy You Kissed in the Delta?

Where can I find 300-count sheets that smell

like Club Ebony closing— catfish grease, plywood,

spilt 7 & 7? Can they be woven from that gin lint

caught on the police station’s razor-curl of concertina?

Who’ll engrave her bare hips in pearl or tell me

not to slow down as I pass an amber-haired girl

jogging along Indian Bayou and check for a ruby-peck

of mole above her lips as she turns and says

Stunned lover, who’s ever sure what I wanted?