Leslie Adrienne Miller
Trying to Reach My Young Lover Before His Feet Get Too Cold

Writing my name twenty-two times, I think of you

writing my name in the silly frame of love 

you's. My cursive is loopy, archaic, a lost art,

and you suspect you were never in the subject 

position, so you've given up the ghost on the catbird seat,

and you know I could write everything you're afraid of, 

and that too, you're afraid of. You blithely tossed

my name into the tiny pulses of l's and o's. Could I 

have stopped you, would I have ta-ta-ed you before

you sent the photograph? Tall drink of a kid in a pale 

tutu, deliberate shadow cupping your jaw on a day

you were screaming with fiasco, I offer you 

gravity in an envelope from Indonesia, patience

from a spring in Missouri, and that bewildered flock 

of shady lovers, a lesson in courtly love, a handful

of words in languages you don't want to know. 

I've bid my bones dance too hard for you, boy

of my heart the blue moon brought and took off 

in all of one day - but not before I got you as image:

a man reduced to a boy parading as a girl, wrapping 

himself into the fleshy envelope we call fetal position,

all your straight bones in the inevitable knot. 

Traveler's cheques, of course, why else would one

sign away so many loops and angles. The point of the pen 

is that I'm buying money with my name on it

for the trip to you, and I'm bringing Keats on a string, 

Pope on a stick, Wordsworth on ten dollars a day.

You're still talking about sex, though the weather likes to taunt 


us that nothing stays pretty. You've taken the old doctor to heart,
his long poem of letters and declarations you imagine neglected. 

No one your age is reading it. Eliot's a bore, and Dickinson's
hip for the hundredth time. Bitterness is a nice touch, 

but only a pinch or the rosemary will be overwhelmed.
Trucks grind their gears hard below my window 

at this moment, this confluence of sound, weather, signs
and time which is part of what we call a day. And it's 

different now that you are. My dear, I'm down to bones,
bones only for you. From here on out, it should be poems, 

poems only for you. You've just discovered giving up
the ghost, though you think it means dying. It doesn't, 

I've used it for years: the ghost is merely an elusive
project, difficult and wearying, something one hasn't 

enough burning or breath to see through to an end.
I'm your ghost, dear, your skeletal girl, your woman 

on the edge of middle age, your cliche, your impossible
touch, your new baby of the mind. I'm conjured and injured 

and not about to die of it. Think of it, the malice I could bear
you, the way I might wear you as long as I live—

You could be my blue boutonniere from a long ago year,
dried and beribboned, faded and faddish. Oh honey-pie 

can you rise above your pond green Gap shirt, Boss belt
and Bean jacket? I'll lend you a string tie a little wadded 

from the barrel I found it in. I'll give you no more stories,
though, than what you've got, summer light dazzling a page, 

little chokes of lightning in a dull sky. We're going
everywhere fast - and you're coming with. Ten times 

on the twenties, twelve times on the fifties—that's still
how it's done. At my age, heartbreak's hardly what 

we die of. Snide remarks heal any wound, believe me.
I'm full of whatdidya expect's and 18th century quips. 

Love it or leave it, but don't watch too long. It's a dance
that burns the poor soles of your feet. They're black and cold 

already— like the old trance dancer's toes.
He can't shake his trance as the lights come up and the tourists 

move in with their murmurs and cameras. His pony's a stick
with a raffia mane, snubbed by sparks. The younger ones can't 

do the solo dance on coals, but they're good at the Kechak chants—
they're the monkey army who perform in perfect franchise, 

all boys with red frangipani blossoms stuffed over their ears.
It's Bali after all—and a good hundred German women 

in brand new sarongs comb their damp hanks of hair in rooms
open over rice paddies. They wait for the end of the Kechak dance, 

for the boys to return in their crisp, white shirts, destar wrapped
brows and long batiks. They'll come with bamboo trays 

of tea and sure fingers into lamplit rooms where desire
is simply a sweet dish, a prickle of breeze in a hot spot: 

yes, no, come, go, here and there, gecko and clove,
who needs more words when the body's so fluent? 

If this is a ghost, why does it pack its bags so carefully—
clean underwear, maps, and all of the music you recommended. 

There's a flask of grief in here somewhere too. And sweetie
if you can find it, I might let you live. You're this missing poem 

in the book on the absence of men and the presence
of women in postmodern life. You have to know that everyone 

who's anyone has always already said, Hurry up please, it's time


Found In Volume 27, No. 02
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  • Leslie Miller
Leslie Adrienne Miller
About the Author
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, Minnesota, 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.