Avatar Review Index


John Mill

* My poetry appears infrequently, if at all. 
* I do communications and public affairs in Washington, DC. 
* I have a bar in my basement, in which live tropical fish named "Meat" and "Bubba."
* Their names were the results of a focus group, which is the basis for democracy in America.
* Therefore, my bar is a microcosm of all that is right and wrong in America. 
* I have an extraordinary spouse and a lovely, hilarious young daughter.
* I think "extraordinary spouse" would sound better in French.
* I don't know French. 
* I don't flyfish nearly enough. 
* I've recently discovered that I don't like recorded music one little bit.
* I'm having a pretty good time. How about you? 
.

 

HAIRY-ARMED ROLANDO SINGS

His glib, cross-legged cohorts, violins
complacently pillowed 
among billowing chins, 
recreate gramophone scratchings. 

What can maroon velvet curtains deaden? 
The watery, muraled 
Mediterranean 
boot punts Sicily toward stage; 

passive swirls, volcanic fomentations
are mimicked and resound 
spike-heeled soccer motions 
in falsetto-pitched atmosphere: 

all only a mural, cigarette smoke, 
candlelight--except when 
hairy-armed Rolando 
sings "La Bella Luna." Except 

for poets, funeral homes, dead cowboys, 
criminals, alter egos, 
and distinguished envoys, 
so few use middle names. Awkward? 

They're a grandfather without his glasses 
or false teeth--except when 
hairy-armed Rolando 
echoes, "Only, only..." and croons, 

"The milky way is my ristorante. 
The Congo is kitchen; 
pots and pans, conga drums. 
Cuba, my blender, is wishing 

"handsome Manuelo Guatemalia 
would sing an aria. 
But he's too thin, too tall 
to sing one--only 'Volare'....

© John Mill


KENDUSKEAG HORNPOUT

Upstream, a native catfish--a glans-headed, barbel-chinned, rare
trash fish--shovels sediment.
It's mud with ribs,
a biceps of mud
flexing in a mucous moccasin,
a cave fish without the cave, not blind,
but with no need for sight--sedentary hornpout.
Impervious, it could thrive under a mile-thick glacier, obliviously shoveling.

Downstream, in the heat of summer, 
salmon seek relief behind the post office; 

kiped jaws, their anadromous postmarks.

© John Mill


LICHENS IN BANGOR

The stonemason's genius pits the landscape
against itself,
builds a granite city

in a granite land,
diverts Kenduskeag Stream between walls--
quarry stone by quarry stone 

in patterns irregular enough to be organic-- 
like granite ears of corn.
Lichens anchor above the tidemark:

small, intricate monuments
to the impotent subversion of subsistence
and the keenest knowledge of plenty. 

© John Mill

POPULATION

Souls sprout from crocus bulbs,
from earthen winter limbo.

I cannot claim responsibility.
Something called me, too. A metallic flicker.

A love flash. A carousel megaphone
in the pumpkin patch.

I didn't come bawling,
just large and hungry.

A spider bite left me left-handed
with cross-wired hand-eye coordination.

After writing with soft-leaded pencils
the side of my little finger and my hand 

look like an elephant's trunk,
and the words are smudged.

Souls come from such smudge;
they are indecipherable to us;

but they are also always eloquently scribbling
among the dark roots of everything.

© John Mill


EXCELLENT FORGOTTEN THOUGHTS

Like a fine cigar's smoke
from the back stoop to perpetuity,
the selfish jerk wants more.

Wants to ask the bowler-wearing Irishman
where Colleen's soul came from.
Wants to give radios to all the Pizza Muslims 
and incorporate their cheesy understanding of street maps
into the lexicon. Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi.

Think of the meat!
That kept him busy for half the week.
But thoughts are vapor trails, not jets.
O! Silver gum-wrapper rain, fall upon the robot people!
Foil the radar
while baby robots make tin pies in juicy fruit mud puddles.

© John Mill


BONGO POSSESSION

The flinty North Atlantic discourages percussion
except milk can clangs and lobstermen's galoshes.
But the bongo blew in from the South, 
shark teeth strung around its neck.

The equatorial waistline dips low for the solstice.
Listen, Navy Bean, between the porcupine bristles and dogfish,
a Congolese whoops among chowder-head children;
steam rises from their backs.

Afterward, cranberry-bog crickets mimic the casaba.

© John Mill


PARKING LOT APOLOGY

Lady-slipper,
you are bulletproof,
and what you want
is important.

© John Mill


MIND READER ON THE METRO

Another abacus-minded
analog onetwothreefour
missile designer
in the railcar, Rowanda.

I've had it, too.
Them and their bathrooms.

Drink me a Gott Damn
Courvasier
and eat Wonder Bread for Passover.
I can't feel my gonads, Herman.

But I can smell someone else's sandwich
when I hear one.
Crafty sycophant,
I'd like your health plan and 401k.

When the tobacco burns,
I feel for the Kansans
too moral to plant
cash crops.

Envy stalks the strip mall.
Buying bolts of cloth
drinking Mr. Pibb
ordering stromboli
pumping quarter after quarter
into the monkey's mouth
until it's obviously better than someone else.

We have walked the elastic band
to the corduroy intersection
and, sweet corn on Tuesday!,
that tic-tac-toe, numerological
Eastern Orthodox monk
is too Cyrillic for Arabic.

It's my fault you're uncomfortable.
I'm large.

© John Mill


BIPOLAR GHOST

A mood-remora,
an emotion sliver,
stalks the mansion,
hungry.

The ghost touches shoulders,
balances on the bubbles of nightmares.
Grandfather's pitchfork 
reopens wounds among the ice 
cream cones.

The ghost skates the boardwalk
whiffing the breath of suntanned over-achievers.
Ketchup is joy. 
It buoys the golden surfers.

The vinegar in the gun moll's veins
pickles love like the formaldehyde embryo,
curling at the Fallopians.
The taste of leather blossoms 
like cauliflower in the ghost's brain.

Black-eyed Susans occupy
the bus stop's mind's eye,
and big-headed diesels 
strew particles of wishes
along the wildflower roadside. 

The ghost gathers his bouquet of moods
as the gaunt commuter pines,
"Belong, belong, belong
to me, Sylvia.
Let me graze the hair 
on your calves like a hummingbird 
sipping butter. Pant, my sated jaguar,
among sandalwood scents
in the vine-smothered ruins of Mazatlan."

At last, a ghostly tint waxes
the sultan's mustache.
The chubby harem shivers.

© John Mill


WRITTEN ON THE JOB AFTER LABOR DAY, 1999

In the catacombs of Dry Toast,
the mausoleum of Reason,
the gesture, the exceeded grasp,
skins its knee.

Platonic Spelunker, Failure
is measured in spent batteries;
respiration robs the candles'
oxygen.

But will Knowledge trade breath for light?

The bones and burlap answer: 

I am the Capital Abstraction, 
the fat poet on the payroll,
the millennial metronome,
the Unknown.


*

Who sends Ritalin ghosts homeward, 
via the bus stop and boardwalk,
to linger with string bikinis
and french fries? 

Cocoa-Butter Zeitgeist, sunburnt
desire rankles the muscular.
Squeeze the cathode ray tube for more
libido.

Rev the millennial moped's
throttle, Two-Stroke. Make it snappy, 
Chump. We're talking tepid pizza--
and your tip.

Therefore and so and after all,
the impetus to summarize
holy odometer zeros 
tantalizes us. What is left
to straddle?

© John Mill


DANCE LESSON, TIMES SQUARE, 1999

While Nabob Napalm applies tickertape 
salve to the confetti-starved streets with Abe
Vigoda,

dress in tinfoil, Enola. Jitterbug
with Little Boy atop the millennial
pagoda.

Observing method champenoise, retrieve
another case of the emperor's new
Toyota,

and circulate the festive cylinders
before the dime drops in Guy Lambada's
club soda.

Trombone effervescence transcends tuba 
incandescence. In Dick Clark's resplendent
corona,

Grecian formulae corrode Julian
calendars as mushroom clouds do the "Jerk."
Free loaders

interrogate dark thrushes in the park,
"Why stay up till midnight?" The reply: "You're
supposed to."

© John Mill


LETTER FROM ROLANDO REMEDIOS CONCEPCIÓN

Señor Millett, 

                        My Mestizo scrawl
inadequately thanks you for the tangelos;
the whiskey hits the palate like a squall 
announcing el surazos --

Glenmorangie in Cochabamba!
Next Gaelic spirits will haunt the Altiplano, 
erect a still to Santo Columba,
huff flutes and plink pianos.

The pilgrims will march and genuflect 
at single-malt stations. When most of them gather,
they assume there's something to resurrect.
But that's Jesuit's blather!

In return for citrus and whiskey 
there should be wisdom. I have only difference.
Here, weather is a matter of distance,
and traveling is risky.

Bolivia's a four-chambered heart: 
Altiplano, Yungas, Chaco, and the Andes.
Sangre de Cristo pumps through every part
as the old nuns gum candies,

and I, with my whiskey, you with words,
exhale vaporous homunculi.
While the ruins hunker among alpaca herds,
upon what do we rely? 


Notes: Mestizo -- an ethnic mix of Spanish and Native South American. surazos -- a seasonal wind from the south bringing rain. 
Glenmorangie -- a fine single-malt scotch whiskey; collect them all. 
Cochabamba -- a Bolivian city on the Altiplano. 
Santo Columba -- 521-597, a Spanglicized version of the Irish saint who catholicized the Picts in Scotland. 
Altiplano, etc. -- regions of Bolivia.

© John Mill


Appliance, Emotion

I'll french kiss the clock radio,
but the toaster oven can
fuck itself slotless.

I am a banana slug;
the L.E.D., my freeway.
My tongue,

a neon convoy of time.

Good morning, smoothness was different before plastic;
prior, the automatic was the sole habitat
of clocksmiths.

Surprises need not be harsh.
Shock defibrillates.
Resumed pumps

own the plumbing,
and I, the gadgeteer
of formica,

with my electric- 
toothbrush conscience,
resurrect all the kingly chrome

accouterments in a kitchen 
cancan of consumption - 
I, the Archduke

of Miniature Convenience.

© John Mill


Potato, Wallow

The ample peasants
with grimy thumbs
paw ruddy circles.
Earth succumbs

to hoes, oxen,
and Indian roots.
The latest blight
told the truth.

So Frenchman, Irish,
Dutch and Russe
gobble grass 
and Deutsche Nusse.

So harvest Eenie, dig up Meenie,
chastise Meinie, punish Moe.
The farmer in the scrabble
is searching for his toe.

Kartofel eins,
Kartofeln drei,
dig your thumb
in my eye.

Pull out Van Gogh.
Retrieve Matisse,
but leave me tubers
and your niece.

Before you leave Aroostook,
eyes wide with wonder, 
swat the chickens off the table
and tuck yourself under.

I may be hungry,
I may be fat,
there may be pommes fritte 
in the vat,

but, Monsieur
Egalitaire
,
I need no mousse
to slick my hair.

With rusty pitchforks
and thatched huts
I'm draining batches
of crinkle cuts.

So harvest Eenie, dig up Meenie,
chastise Meinie, punish Moe.
The farmer in the scrabble
is searching for his toe.

Before you leave Aroostook
assuming you can win, 
swat the chickens off the bedposts
and tuck yourself in.

© John Mill

"Not Bjork"  

    Rather the thunderhead convection of the equator.

           Tradewinds and coquina,

sugarcane and sea oats,

sea grape and mangrove.

 

Sandflies swarm among the jerky strips of beached sargasso,

                  fronds flick beyond the dunes.

   Who is the whore in my heart and whence her boreal pinings?

                              Bootleg landi and haddock fry trickle from the Pjórsá.

                 Mid-ocean, grilse trace the brimstone scents,

                and my Caribbean of blue agave and jaded rum

is henceforth a glacial tincture of burnt wine.