Wayne Miller


The Tourist

He took pictures through the train’s window— 
like cupping his hands repeatedly 
into a passing river. The country 
was gaping with words he didn’t know, 
and he was pleased each time he asked 
more eloquently for a cigarette. 
All the neoned faces on the Avenue 
were Fauvist and hung in his mind 
long after they’d passed, the night crowd 
enveloping him like an anemone. 
And the men selling books from blankets 
on the winding street, while in the café 
he picked words from a conversation 
like pebbles from a wound. What 
was it he felt? Fear and electricity 
spinning like the cups of an anemometer? 
The world opening and opening 
for him to step into? How irrigation 
had unyellowed the countryside, 
how in the stairwells the crowds 
interwove each other like schools of fish. 
How his dreams grew in the halocline 
between languages. He sliced through 
the long alleys of empty shirts 
in the Sunday market, collected 
words from the colorful packages 
in the bodegas. When the conductor 
passed like a priest, the passengers 
disappeared into their headphones. 
And now, in this picture on the table, 
his reflection is pressed to the window, 
the camera erasing his face. The fields 
blur as they slip from behind 
where he hovers—


Lines Etched into a Zolpidem


                              The body will dissolve 
                                                          the white that cups these words

                              but not the words—which are nothing           

                              held in existence here,
                                                          which join the body

                              when the pill’s dim chalk of sleep

                              ticks back into you, 
                                                       as does each one, particular

                              night rolling past the window— 
                                                                       behind which

                              the notches pass 
                                                     around the nail

                              at the wheel’s center.


                              Now pour a whole month’s
                                                                          worth of nights

                              out into your hand.



Wayne Miller is the author of three books of poems, most recently The Book of Props (Milkweed, 2009) and The City, Our City (Milkweed, 2011; forthcoming). He is also coeditor of the anthology New European Poets (Graywolf, 2008) and translator of Moikom Zeqo’s I Don’t Believe in Ghosts (BOA, 2007). He teaches at the University of Central Missouri and edits Pleaides: A Journal of New Writing.