Joseph Millar


I will never again write from personal experience.
– Lynn Emanuel

If they keep on with their unstable muttering,
chipping away at the worn first person
who’s now pulling weeds outside in the garden
or leaning its ladder against the garage,
maybe no one else will show up
in sneakers and old hat
to water the lettuce or clean out the gutters,
patch the fence
next to the broken gate…

Maybe no one will waste most of Wednesday
driving to town and getting lost
on the slanted black streets of Lynchburg
amid coffee galleries and book stores, the music
CD’s glittering like badges: Hendrix, Mingus,
the jewelry of cell phones opening
their cheap clasps over the sidewalks
dotted with late spring rain.

Maybe the kitchen above the brick steps
will vanish in a sudden postmodern ellipsis,
along with the olive oil in its jar
glowing like a lamp on the counter top
strewn with the gold skin of carrots and spuds
and the onion’s translucent husks,
the pot with a glass lid
she bought at Good Will,
the stove’s charred burner
and blue gas flame even now
beginning to stutter and rise,
even now beginning to hiss.


Joseph Millar‘s first collection, Overtime (2001) was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. A second collection, Fortune, appeared in 2007. Millar grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Johns Hopkins University and spent 25 years in the San Francisco Bay area working at a variety of jobs, from telephone repairman to commercial fisherman. His new chapbook, Bestiary, is available from Red Dragonfly Press. His third collection, Blue Rust, is out now from Carnegie-Mellon. Millar is the core faculty at Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program and lives in Raleigh, NC.