Matt W. Miller


Strange land behind my eyes,
or some unsettled thing in the wind,

a vision of my wife, shoeless,
steps over the November grass

of our backyard. I watch her
behind the thin red

curtain of a bay window.
She ghosts into the tangle

under the old growth elm,
stares into the tree’s grey, its leafless

and withering gnarl. And then
she embraces it and begins

to climb, as sure as a child.
She works her way up and, near

the top of the last branch thick
enough not to break, she strips.

First, her sweater. Then her blue
bra. Her small breasts pale

the purpling sky. She slips
off her jeans and panties, sliding

her thighs with the limb to wiggle
them down to one ankle where they

dangle a second before she kicks
them to the undergrowth.

She presses her face to the elm,
her yes closed, arms cradling.

Her knees gently grip,
flesh flush with bark.

A lace of wind rocks the limb.
I watch the dusk deepen

around a congruence of breeze
and tree, of me and she.


For Emily

How wild this flesh can be so cut open,
my thigh gouged out in scapular divot,
and that I don’t exsanguinate nor begin
to right away wilt with necrotic rot.
How wild a wound can bloom red-eyed
at the external world as internal witness
to sun, to rain, the natural shocks. Debride
me, surgeons, open me up as wide as a rose.
Make carbuncles breathe periwinkle
through this my gape. Invade the open gate
and snip me clean with silvered scissors. Twinkle
your light into my leg. Look for a hurt
too wildfire to whittle. Stuff me with gauze.
Then needle me numb so I won’t feel the flies.


Matt W. Miller’s second book of poems, Club Icarus, was selected by Major Jackson for the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize. His first collection, Cameo Diner: Poems, was published by Loom Press. He is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University and has published work in Southwest Review, Florida Review, Slate, Poetry Daily, Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Memorious, Third Coast, and other journals. He teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy where he also directs the Writers’ Workshop at PEA. He lives with his family in New Hampshire.