A native of Fullerton, California, Michael Miller is the co-founder of Moon Tide Press and the author of College Town (Tebot Bach, 2010) and The First Thing Mastered (Tebot Bach, 2013). A longtime journalist, he has written for the Los Angeles Times and other publications and won a 2014 Orange County Press Club award for his story on poets Lee Mallory and Charles Bukowski. He has served as a judge for Poetry Out Loud and the San Diego Book Awards, and his work has appeared in San Pedro River Review, Rockhurst Review, Lummox, Pea River Journal, Connotation Press and elsewhere. He earned a BA from the University of California, Irvine and an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia.
Their Mother and the Coyote
The trap pounced onto its foot
from the patch of hay behind the rose bushes,
she sprints inside to call Animal Control
then slowly creeps out, as gingerly
as chancing the river’s surges.
The man who set the trap for them
away at work with the car and rifle,
every step she takes refines the rules—
when she freezes, the children freeze,
then waver behind her in single file.
In the jaws, half-white and lurching, is the catch.
The wild eyes them and they eye it back,
their uneasy laughter the triumph now
against its outraged oval mouth,
its front legs that shrink and bound up straight
as if trying to cow the roof behind them.
Is this the one that devoured the dogs
around the block? The boy darts in
and comes back with the cap gun, aims it,
but his mother faces the animal with only
her hands spread out, the thorn-pocked palms
survivors of the yard’s lesser battles.
This dirt is theirs and for the moments
before the engine roars up, so is the coyote.
From an arm’s length, cinched in its trap,
it struts and dazzles. What is tempered already
shrinks back. They live in this pulsing
space between, these few invincible feet.
Boy at the Backyard Pond
With a single stone, will you shatter the world?
The reflection holds the same as above—
clouds, sharp branches, the face peering down.
Your muscles hold memory of the ache,
the strain to throw with the grown man’s force.
The pain is worth it. What can destroy, can rule.
When you lifted the goldfish bowl above the tiles,
they screamed. Your palms held the fish in place,
the tiny castle, the plastic trees swaying.
A loosing of the grip would splinter the glass.
It is the small worlds the hands can break.
Could the man’s knuckles, rising, break the sky?
You set the bowl down then. That was mercy,
their fingers wiping sweat, cries turned to laughter.
Now, the house sleeps. The back door left open
leads to this spot above the reflection:
the windless day, the mirrored fist with gravel
as still and complete as the castle in the bowl.
The first missile flies. For an instant, suspended,
the smaller world holds—the boy and trees
and cloud-coated sky their own frail glass
under the dropping stone. When you dash the surface,
will the sound be worth the silence closing back?
Does the water, finally, swallow every throw?
It starts with an illumination
the brightest there will ever be
the darkness pierced at the end of the bubble
and the sudden holocaust of white
the dreams welled up and carried surging
into slap of air and quaking breath
this box of four walls and a ceiling
bounding the new outrageous world
of hands that pass to larger hands
and colors teeming in every corner
the only light that will rush in
without the memory of light before
the cord cut and then the moment’s lift
before the glide into expectant arms
the first taste of effortless flight
and the first fleeting touch down.