Jane Miller
Selection from Midnights



Between hope and despair, a large house in the desert sits empty. The wind, from time to time, thrums the grand piano, even though the piano is shut tight. And the windows are sealed, so the alarm rings and rings, and no one responds.


Mice are no longer saved who have fallen into our saltwater pool in the hours before dawn. They descend to the bottom. Mostly babies. The manager of the dead comes once a week, Tuesday mornings at 7:30, and lifts them out with a net and puts them in a dark pouch. Where do they go from there?


Once, on the wrong anti-depressant, you became hysterical about bugs in the pool, each one of which you needed to save. I thought I was strong, and could help you, could see that your sympathetic nervous system was flaring, because you would at any cost, the cost of your own life by drowning, need to save them, the flies, the mice, the snakes, the butterflies, the swarming bees. And many were saved but not all. And finally you saw this was inevitable, this was living and dying. I never could help you, although I lived through all your hysterical ailments. Your brown eyes did not want me to help. Eventually I turned away, and now my gaze goes from the inside of my head to the night sky and skips your gaze entirely, as you willed it.


If a person would lie to the person she loved because she had to, because circumstances were such, then it is in character that this kind, hospitable liar would trowl down to the bottom after a helpless Chihuahua, a prehistoric looking creature who has made an egregious mistake that could cost her her life only because she was so thirsty. In your right mind, every thing and everyone was worth saving,


but the more we tried, the more saving and loving each other became incompatible. In the end, it is a fact that you lifted a young and therefore highly venomous snake to safety, and inflated the flat, depleted moon, when it fell into our pool, and returned it to the heavens, calmly, responsibly. In a culture that is unaware of poetry’s magic and its mythologies, I beseech you — you who once wrote poems, which is how you no doubt came to be a familiar of celestial bodies — please, become one of the helpless who did not mean it when she said, you sad peripatetic moon, I am no longer in love with you.


Separated from you, I see the frown of crescent moon, so you have not taken up the request. When it lowers, slowly rocking, and finally falls, I can return you the favor, sincerely, and put it back where it belongs, as I suspect you always hoped I would, and despaired that I was not capable. Granted, it is merely a shaving. The rest is in darkness.


Thank goodness no one can see me looting the dark pouch for the dead mice.


Northgate, midnight

Found In Volume 37, No. 01
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Jane Miller
About the Author

Jane Miller’s books include Wherever You Lay Your Head and Memory at These Speeds: New and Selected Poems, both from Copper Canyon Press.