I know you longed to be anywhere else
that afternoon in the Buick’s front seat
saying my mother had gone to her rest,
then something about dreams, something
about sleep, a necklace of sunlight bright
on the dash, the upholstery smelling of must.
Now you are gone too, suddenly taken
in a morning nap following a two-day bender,
the veined leaves of trillium and belladonna
ganged in close to the porch where you lay.
Today I put on a new shirt for the funeral,
long pants with creases sharp as a knife.
I put on the shoes with midnight blue laces,
a black hat that tilts toward the ground.
Father, we step together now, over dew
that made the old weaver weep
in the Irish ballad you sang,
captured among the branches today
in the glittering webs of autumn.
My friend says when someone we love
passes on, we trail after them in a daze,
emptied, blind as a husk. And the dark waves
breaking over the rocks make it easy to fall
asleep here, rhythmic, shorebound, common as sand.
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.