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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Charlie and James

 

 

People at the warehouse

said he looked

like James Dean,

so he quit his boring job.

 

He saw “Rebel” five

times, bought a red

jacket and posed

against brick walls.

 

One day, he talked

a fourteen-year-old,

baton-twirling girl

into taking a ride.

 

She watched him kill

ten nice people

with a shotgun,

from Nebraska to Wyoming.

 

When they were caught

on the open road,

the cops asked Charlie

why he did it, murdered

 

innocent men and women?

He tried to think

of something clever, hip

to say, like he was

 

a movie star only girls

understood. But he just

grinned, shrugged his

shoulders and walked

 

in chains for the

last time.  While they

strapped him to the chair,

he thought about the fun

 

they’d had. He didn’t have

a cause, just a girl and a gun,

an icy highway until

the screen went blank.

 

        -William Miller


 

 

Dead Celebrities

 

 

Their funerals are broadcast

live around the globe.

 

Many tears are shed,

eulogies given,

“A star has gone back

to the sky!”

 

Their record sales shoot up;

old movies are part

of a deluxe box edition.

 

No one cares about

their last, lost years

in mansions white

as sepulchers.

 

Their private doctor

had his own suite,

was always on call,

a shot or pill for

any pain.

 

But even if he died

on the toilet, a hundred

pounds overweight,

he is young

and slender again…

 

Finally, imitators appear,

men and women

who dress like them,

strike familiar poses.

 

These clones can draw

crowds of screaming

women, who throw

their room keys, even

panties on the stage.

 

 And she signs autographs

 at trade shows,

 ribbon cuttings

 for grocery stores

 and car dealerships…

 

 The singer and the screen

 idol know nothing about

 their resurrections,

 their careers on the far

 side of the grave.

 

 But if they did,

 and death wasn’t death,

 they’d have surely

 died sooner,

 their first names

 shouted from the pit.

 

       -William Miller

 

 

 

Coleridge in Highgate


 

Every morning, Dr. Gillman

dripped red drops in a

glass of brandy,

his patient’s daily dose.

 

And he slowly became

a thinking, talking,

vibrant man under

a roof freely given.

 

The whole world came

to the doctor’s door,

Keats, Emerson, Carlyle.

When Keats died, he swore

 

he “felt death in his

handshake.” When he

talked about his own

death, he spoke of poems

 

and plays unfinished.

“The Mariner” was written

by a young man, whose

opium dreams led to great art.

 

But that was until the ruby

drops meant more

than high praise

from critics who wondered

 

why he didn’t write ballads

anymore.  Dr. Gillman

was called, a doctor who

had worked with those

thought beyond hope.

 

He didn’t care about their

moral needle, saw only a terrible

sickness, fatal if not treated.

 

He took the great man home,

weaned him to as little

laudanum as possible,

left it there…

 

Coleridge once wrote about

the unknown limits

of fear, guilt, nightmares.

But no mystery

 

was greater than human

kindness.  Near the end,

he thanked the doctor

for revealing it

 

to him.  And they sat

in silence as the evening 

fire burned slowly

down, not doctor

 

and patient but two

humble men

in a dim parlor,

bound by the same coil.

 

              -William Miller



Dreams of a Porno Star

 

He lives in a three-bedroom

ranch house, drives an SUV.

 

His wife loves him dearly,

as do his small children,

who wait at the window

for him to come home.

 

And he does, every evening

at 5:15, taps the horn

in the driveway.

 

In bed, he’s tired

but gives in to his wife’s

random need.

 

She knows one position,

the one that’s worked

for years, then falls asleep.

 

He lies awake and thinks

he’s blessed—he might

still be alone,

searching for something

without a name…

 

The next morning, traffic

is terrible; he might be late

for a sales team meeting.

 

But so will other guys

the boss depends on,

hard workers,

good family men…

 

He gives his report

instead of stripping 

in a cold cabana

for a threesome

at the beach, another

threesome at the beach.


              -William Miller




The Redneck Liz Taylor

 


She married three men

who looked like movie stars.

 

The first was a young

Tony Curtis who loved

card games and whiskey stills.

 

 He left her for a much

 younger woman, though

 at the mention of his name

 she always  said,

“Tony, my Tony…”

 

 The second looked like

 Lee Marvin, a tough guy,

 ex-army.  He told her

 what to do and when

 to do it.

 

 She left him, years later,

 for a man who might

 have been Clarke Gable’s

 country twin.

 

 He was odd in his ways,

 stayed up late, cleaning

 his guns. He talked about

 a war that was coming,

 the last war.

 

 But they looked perfect

 together, she thought,

 and that was reason

 enough to  stay together.

 

 It all ended badly, loudly,

 in a trailer in the woods,

 not in a movie house,

 not on the silver, shining screen.

 

         -William Miller

 

 

 

Social Media

 


Instead of Facebook,

I have a life.

 

I do not know how

to post nor do I want

to post anything.

 

Why would I want

to know someone

else’s business,

have them know mine?

 

The other day, I walked

to a friend’s house,

rang the bell.

 

He looked at me like

I was from another

solar system.

 

Why didn’t I tweet first

or text?

 

He was about to go

running along the river;

everyone knew about

his new running shoes…

 

I thought about drums,

smoke signals, telegrams

and party lines.

 

We had so many ways

to say so little

to so many people…

 

A homeless man was

slumped against a wall,

a man with dirty skin,

yellow eyes.

 

I was about to drop

a dollar in his can,

when I saw him reading,

punching a phone.

 

            -William Miller

 

 

 

Elder Suicide


 

Men use handguns;

women take pills.

 

And most are in good

health, years left to live.

 

What happened

in the chilled air

of the condo, the garden

apartment they sold

their homes to buy?

 

They once worked

for something--braces,

college, early retirement.

 

They worked for the time,

means, to spoil their

grandchildren.

 

But their children

moved away, kept moving

for a better job

or just to live closer

to the beach…

 

So they mall walk,

make routine visits

to their doctors,

wait in a slow line

at the pharmacy.

 

And they remember

how their parents

died at home,

their parents, too…

 

Death was no mystery,

the coffin on sawhorses

in the front room…

 

And one day they discuss it,

then the next,

until tears turn

to cold resolve.

 

The other will quickly

follow, as neither

can live long

in a world without

their spouse…

 

No one understands

since they never leave

a note.

 

A note would have

to tell the whole story,

how they worked

and dreamed,

though the dream

turned out so badly.

 

         -William Miller