William Miller

A Painting of Mary

Darkened by soot,
candles burning down
for centuries, darkened
by pipe and cigar smoke,
this old scene is new,
painted by time.

No husband, no wise men,
no sheep or donkeys—
even the infant is in shadow.
Abandoned, she is wistful,
thinks of her fate
in a world of angels

disrupting a simple life,
circling above a cross
too awful for even a thief
to suffer on. She is still
a mother, hand on
the wooden crib,

rocking her child
before first light,
the dawn that breaks
on all women who give birth
to sons who grow old,
simply die.

Katrina Baby

Their shotgun house,
a fixer-upper
in the 7th Ward,
was all they could afford.

But it was theirs,
and they wanted
to start a family after
the mold was scraped off,

the porch painted
purple and gold.
They knew about
the storm days before,

shuttered windows,
stocked up on wine
and whiskey.
Neighbors fled,

looters looted.
In the attic, they watched
boats and even bodies
drift by.

When the booze ran out,
they made love
on the wet floor,
forgot they were

about to drown…
Their little girl was born
in Texas, grew up
in a house that smelled

like decay for years.
She thought poor
was rich, sad happy,
all streets were

made of potholes
filled with oily water.
She saw rainbows
in them all.

Party Line

Our first phone
was a black upright,
a circle of numbers
for dialing.

My mother took a pill,
slept through
the afternoon,
and I listened

to old women
tell the worst about
our neighbors–
who was stepping out,

who owed the bank
more than he was worth,
the devil his soul.
And all the kids

were monsters,
ungrateful brats
with dirty faces,
dirty hands, dirty feet…

At some point, I laughed,
and they called me
by name, said they’d
tell my mother

if she ever woke up,
my dad if he still knew
our address,
ever came home.


William Miller is the author of six collections of poetry, the most recent Recovering Biker (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2017). Individual poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Penn Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner and West Branch. He lives and writes in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

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