Word Poetry

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Sample Poems by Michael Milburn



Chainsaw

When it stops I'm grateful,
both for the sudden quiet

and for the girl singing next door
whose voice rends the air

as if the air had begged for it,
but in a languorous way,

not the helpless way
quiet goads a chainsaw.

The girl wields her voice
like the man his chainsaw,

but recklessly, without fear of it
mutilating whatever it bites into.

She flings it into my yard.
It slices me clean through.



Divorcee

She accepts all invitations,
asking me what else she's
supposed to do. It's all you
can do, I tell her, apart from

staying home every night,
which is where I was when
she phoned from the party,
the kind I used to frequent

as part of my own new life,
but no longer do. I heard
the tinkling of drinks, music,
and laughter--the materials

for a life or the ruins of one,
depending how you look at it
and her, building or burying,
depending how you look at it.




Oral Report

Slouching to the front,
note cards shuffled
anxiously, glanced at,
her smile cajoling us

to find this funny, gross,
she flashes a photo--her
at birth, two pounds,
two months premature,

tubes looping out of
orifices like a carburetor.
The label on her Lucite
breathing hut reads H. Briscoe.

Under its blurred roof,
something in the plane
of brow and nose identifies
this swath of raw skin as

Hillary, ninth grader,
good writer, fighter
to speak in class, now
fidgeting before us.

In the photograph she naps,
(or perhaps waits--her eyes
have not yet opened),
under the flashbulb's reflected star

as her father clicks the camera,
joking, hoping "Someday she'll say
'I once looked like this'" as now
she, laughing, does.




Understood

Say aliens come,
mouthless, fluent in
a language of lights
and tones. Judging

them friendly, some
other humans and I
form a greeting party
and begin to convey,

pointing from our lips
to their dish-like ears,
the art of speech. So
advanced! they beam,

and glide back up
to the mothership
in search of tools
with which to cut

themselves mouths.
And we decide that,
seen afresh, words
really are great--no

excuse for evasion,
misunderstandings.
We bow and leave,
glad to have made

their trip worthwhile,
and I head home
where I can't even
broach our distance
anymore without you
going mute to weigh
your response--I'm
processing, you say,

plump your pillows
with sharp whacks,
switch off your light;
I leave mine on, sigh.



Lust

Lust runs
a man as
a plow or

a gunned
motor, as
tiredness

and thirst
drive him
to satiety,

but what's
his intent?
Sex, yes,

though
sex fails
to get at

the heart
if you will
of what's

clamoring &
why, when
the stirring

on her side
says she's
not asleep,

I, who had
no plan to,
turn to her.