Poetry by Joseph Millar

Telephone Repairman

All morning in the February light
he has been mending cable,
splicing the pairs of wires together
according to their colors,
white-blue to white-blue
violet-slate to violet-slate,
in the warehouse attic by the river.

When he is finished
the messages will flow along the line:
thank you for the gift,
please come to the baptism,
the bill is now past due:
voices that flicker and gleam back and forth
across the tracer-colored wires.

We live so much of our lives
without telling anyone,
going out before dawn,
working all day by ourselves,
shaking our heads in silence
at the news on the radio.

He thinks of the many signals
flying in the air around him
the syllables fluttering,
saying please love me,
from continent to continent
over the curve of the earth.


Love Pirates

I follow with my mouth the small wing of muscle
under your shoulder, lean over your back, breathing
into your hair and thinking of nothing. I want
to lie down with you under the sails of a wooden sloop
and drift away from all of it, our two cars rusting
in the parking lot, our families whining like tame geese
at feeding time, and all the bosses of the earth
cursing the traffic in the morning haze.

They will telephone each other from their sofas
and glass desks, with no idea where we could be,
unable to picture the dark throat
of the saxophone playing upriver, or the fire
we gather between us on this fantail of dusty light,
having stolen a truckload of roses
and thrown them into the sea.

“Telephone Repairman” and “Love Pirates” are reprinted with permission. Both poems are originally from Overtime (Carnegie Mellon Univ Press, 2001).  Joseph Millar has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and won a Pushcart Prize. He has taught at Pacific University, the University of Oregon, and Oregon State University. He also worked as a commercial fisherman and telephone repairman for more than twenty years. His newest collection of poetry, Dark Harvest, New and Selected Poems 2000-2020, was also published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in October 2021.

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