Now the cold daylight turns its back
and we step down into the narrow skiff
carrying our groceries and motor oil,
your face a pale blotch in the fog,
the banks of the estuary loosening
into the channel, the horizon
a silver line angling west.
One more month coming up
watching the moon in its changes,
one more month listening
to seabirds and wind, listening
to you dreaming out loud
about the waitress in Naknek
who called you Honey
when she brought the eggs
thinking because of your red moustache
you might be one of the Russians
with their fiberglass Wegley boats
we never understood how they could afford.
You could have made a life with her, you said,
settled down by the woodstove in winter
listening to the tide come in,
a half-life imagined, on the back deck
watching the cork line straighten and drift.
You could have hidden away
in her kitchen, watching the spaghetti sauce
like a child or an old man. You could
live easy and die happy, a candle burning
in every window, the blue compass needle
and hands of the clock all pointing north
through the field’s wavy grass.
You could make your grave in her.
Joseph Millar’s first collection, Overtime, published by Eastern Washington University Press in 2001, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Millar grew up in Pennsylvania and took an MA from Johns Hopkins in 1970. It would be two decades before he returned to poetry. His work has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Oregon Literary Arts. In 1997, he gave up his job as telephone installation foreman and moved to western Oregon, where he teaches at Oregon State University and in Pacific University’s low-residency MFA program.