nails and bullets

Steve Miller's beautiful book, nails and bullets, is finished and available. If you can, support fine letterpress printing by checking it out at Vamp and Tramp Booksellers along with a lot more of Steve's work, as well as work from many printers, paper-makers, artists, writers, and book-binders.

You can check out a bit more detail on my site as well. 


On Burying Hill

My father and I used to walk
along the paths around Burying Hill.
We’d read the headstones,
recite the names of the family
he married into. He’d smoke,
I softly breathed into my harmonica
as my ancestors curled up
in their coffins and sucked the thumbs
of roots that grew around them
and tickled their bones.

It had become sort of a tradition.
We’d walk away from the family reunion
that clamored at the end of the road.
He needed a cigarette and I
needed some time away from the running,
sweaty cousins I barely knew.

He and I didn’t look alike
and I was the child of a generation
he didn’t really understand,
but we shared this; getting away,
walking the paths and pasts
of cemeteries or parks,
places where things had happened,
places we could sink our heads
into and look around for stories.

I’d read a man’s name, he’d repeat it, 
maybe with an accent
if it sounded like it came
from a far off part of the world.
I’d read the name of the wife,
he’d call to her in the voice of the husband,
breathing their names into the air once again.

Isn’t this how we keep the dead alive?
We say their names,
we give their hoarse voices sound,
put light back in the cold, dark sockets
of their skulls. We say their names
and remember the time we spent.

This summer I went back to the green,
rolling hills of New York, the reunion,
the cousins, the sweaty kids
running and spinning under the broad leaves
of old oaks and white stacks of clouds.
While my family coalesced
around the house my ancestors built
I walked up to Burying Hill.
I strolled the paths, stopping at times
to read names, whisper them
back into the air, rouse them
from their cool slumber.
At my father’s headstone I was silent,
unable to reproduce the deep hum,
the clear song of his voice
that I knew so well. 
Maybe sons are destined to feel inadequate
in front of their fathers.
Maybe I need him to rest
a little longer before I call him back,
before I say his name and he stirs
in the dark chambers of my heart.

Been writing more...

Black Holes

When giant things move,
we’ve learned, they warp time
and the space around them. 
They push gravity
the way ships push water
away from their sharp bows.
So two black holes that swing
and spin around one another
like figure skaters on black ice,
as these giants stare
into one another’s enormous, dark eyes,
they ripple the past and the future
all around them.

I think of the infinite, infinitesimal galaxies
that are constantly being born
and destroyed in the thin gaps
between my fingernails and fingers,
the solar systems of dust
gathering under my bed.
For the inhabitants that sense
my hulking presence,
aren’t I like those black holes?

As I thump and rumble across rooms,
my sharp nose splitting the air
out in front of me,
aren’t I warping time?
Doesn’t the past and the future
coalesce right in front of my eyes?
If I could simply focus,
wouldn’t I be able to see you again,
walking slowly under the bare branches
of winter oaks, smoking a cigarette?
Shouldn’t I be able to talk to you,
shouldn’t I be able to apologize
for the huge spaces that opened
between us?