Three Poems

Linoleum Daydreams

and apples and crickets
and skies rolled out like flattened dough,
just a sprinkling of flour 
in the evening. 
These sugar-crystal kitchen nights 
I spent with you, Mother, 
not with the men
and their machines. Not with the boys 
playing dress up for Daddy. No cowboys, 
no cap guns for me.

I sit in memory still
at the altar of your kitchen shoes. You glide
across countertops as I 
practice my fatherless monotheism,
knowing but one aproned deity
in the pantheon
of my linoleum daydreams.

We sneak our fingers
in the bowl, stealing
bites between the laughter. Our secrets
are the dough packed on my ribs.
You baptize me with a flick 
of your flour-whitened fingers,
and I become
the only boy on Earth.

But daydreams fade in the cricketless night,
replaced by my regret. I remember my voice
when I left, and how I hated 
how it hated you. 
How my Promethean defiance bellowed,
and I’ve never known a pain so clean
and so clear as my mother’s eyes
washed blue with tears.

I still find my comfort
in the kitchen, while the men
are still playing dress up for Daddy.
And sometimes, I’ll swipe some dough 
for you. 
But that kitchen and those Summers
are someone else’s now.
I should call and ask you
if God still lives in empty churches,
or in those empty kitchens
sprinkled in flour.

A Violation of Sorrow

My father said, it’s not goodbye,
it’s see you soon, childproofing 
the words. My brother and I learning
to kill our tears, only eight
and eleven years old, as our father 
bared his fracturing face 
at the departure gate.

We found our seats, window and middle,
and I imitated the dryness 
of my brother’s eyes. A trembling nonchalance,
a conquering dam in that expression.

He bit his cheek, blood
holding the water back.
And me watching. Sinking fingernails 
into the flesh of my clenched fist, 
strangling the blubbering hiccups in my throat.
We were men, eight and eleven
years old, when we learned to violate
our sorrow.

I Hope the Rapture Took Her in Time

Headlights tugged
my puttering, 
asthmatic car across
the erosion of highway –
Hellfire billboards 
like the occasional tooth 
from the desert’s dry mouth.
The pavement lay 
as a scar striped 
across the cleft body
of desolation. I thought, so this 
is loneliness.

The night 
and the desert deepened
and I saw the blackened parchment
of the landscape’s starless skin
as it exposed itself –
a grieving mother sprawled
before my secret eyes.
The desert lay face-down, 
undressed in the wastes
of time.

I pulled into a town blemished
upon the desert’s back
and layered thick
with the silt of neglect. Wood rot
reached the steeples and I counted
more church bells than bodies.
One gas pump
at the end of the row,
fill up here.
I’d never seen a town 
so empty.

I thought maybe
the missing citizenry
were the raptured few; no hands left
to lean their roadside crosses.
I almost checked the sky
for buoyant souls, as if they might 
still be lingering high, 
like the balloons that slipped 
through our fingers.

But they weren’t there,
no ghosts left
in this town. It must have existed once
as a home. Women raising
little boys, dressing up for dinner parties.
And then leaving.
I could almost see the footprints pressed
in dry dirt where a mother 
left a man, left
the church. 

she saw the hope smeared 
in the space between the sand 
and sky. Maybe she took 
her first full breath
in the cab of a moving truck,
boys at her hip. 
And maybe 
she looked to the pavement stretching 
from her tires to the line of sky 
and found 
her rapture in the miles.

Timothy Miller

Timothy Miller is a poet who has led something of a nomadic adulthood, finding friends, adventure, and inspiration in every place. He spent his twenties exploring the streets of San Francisco, absorbing the vibrancy and culture of the city before taking off for the mountains and forests of Montana, Colorado, and Michigan. Eventually, he found his way back home to Mendocino County, discovering the contentment of a more settled life. He spends his evenings writing, playing cribbage, and watching bad movies with his wife and their dog, Gemma.