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—
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.