Leslie Adrienne Miller is author of six collections of poetry including Y, The Resurrection Trade, and Eat Quite Everything You See from Graywolf Press, and Yesterday Had a Man in It, Ungodliness, and Staying Up For Love from Carnegie Mellon University Press. Professor of English at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minn., she holds a Ph.D. from the University of Houston, an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, an M.A. from the University of Missouri, and a B.A. from Stephens College.
……………hoc opus, hic labor est
She scours the desert before dawn for sign
and subject: today dun buttes streaked with what
light can do when an ocean flies beneath it,
and land for miles made of nothing but shattered
bone. Skull of the starved dog or goat,
scoured boat ribs, sage tumble and itch,
Raphaëlle’s capable arm scrubs these
into parchments as if bringing spilled cream
from the desert’s purpled knees. Distilled life
layered in sheaves and shapes lives on
in durable splatters and shavings across
the smock she wore in her work. Marvelous
scrawl of her industry in Andalusian hues,
her smock is the canvas I crave,
the opus she bequeaths to me
when we pack our makings for home.
Behind us, lion taming and the tiny zoo
where we went even without the child
in summer, pink birds standing in dross
of their own appetites, languid gorilla
picking his glossy chest and dropping
his impossibly heavy arms to run.
Something there is in the wet
cobble and somersaulting bear
that keeps us coming back to traps
and thick scent, wary cats and the water
in the blue eye of the nervous wolf.
And before us: miniature history of popsicle
drippings along the stones, carousel notes
always clearer from a distance, and the pure
ballast of boy we pass back and forth
because he likes to loop and burrow
in the must of us, the pendant of him
hung like a splendid white bird
from our necks.