Michael Miller is a former entertainment journalist for the Los Angeles Times and the author of Thief After Dark (FarStarFire Press, 2002), College Town (Tebot Bach, 2010), The First Thing Mastered (Tebot Bach, 2013) and Angels in Seven (Moon Tide Press, 2016). A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he won a 2014 Orange County Press Club award for his story on poets Lee Mallory and Charles Bukowski. He earned a BA in English from UC Irvine and an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Rachanee Srisavasdi, and their daughter, Clare.
ALASKA AIRLINES NONSTOP TO LAX
Before the planes turned to ram the Twin Towers,
they hummed in a straight line just like this —
an achievement always to stay calm facing forward
and most remarkable when wings and circuits
keep us suspended over a space too vast
to be even called a drop. The sky that radiates blue
from below turns to nothing when looked at
from above, but here on board, we cling
to the somethings we have: water closer to us
in the plastic bottles than in the particles
of clouds, American Hustleon the in-flight movie
catching more stares than the mountaintops
that will never bounce light just this way again.
The story goes that even the astronauts
played Hank Williams on Apollo 13
until the batteries died, and perhaps in the face
of the possible fireball, all we know is the language
we packed from home. Given one more minute,
how many of us would opt for last words,
some grand phrase to resolve up high
what was left unfinished miles below?
The fullest circle would be to go in silence,
to let sky outlive the word for sky
and thrill one last time to what light and color gave —
the outpost of ground and expansion of blue
and the promise that thoughts could help us climb.
TO RACHANEE, LAGUNA BEACH, JAN. 1
Another holidays over and we’ve asked for less
than we’ve given away, the alarm’s cold chime
waking us to our trusted inventory
of walls, ceiling, slotted sunlight.
To meet the new year, we drive to the streets
where our salaries would never buy a home
and slide six quarters — the year’s first price —
into the meter a block from the beach.
Lace fingers, again, and let’s enjoy
what is never given to us for keeps:
heaven, the absolute, whatever we name it
mirrored on the surface between wakes and buoys,
the robin’s-egg sky that almost dissolves
past the water’s edge on bleary days
now bold and separate, presiding master-like
over its more breakable half.
We are one day — always a day, not a year —
closer to broken, our bodies counting
toward an end whose only secret is time and place.
If we are lucky, someday, we will plan our letting go,
but this year is marked for holding what we can.
On the concrete steps, you choose the best angle,
touch your head to mine, click the iPhone camera.
With quarters, we will adore this sky later.
The responsibilities, stored at home, will wait.
How hard do we work to play at pausing time?
We thrive on boundaries pushed just enough,
our bliss bought with coins set aside.