All Around Us
By: John Miller
All around us, near-misses all morning – a parked stranger’s car kisses our rear bumper; across an intersection an overlarge pickup you watch back up a K-turn, miss by inches three conversing cyclists; later, on the state road, an old sedan lurks head-on in its turn lane, headlights and front end poised toward us, where I might, inattentive or ten over, shear off the teeth of its grille. I thought, once parked, the danger seemed everywhere might pass. But by afternoon, I know it had nothing to do with cars or driving. Over lunch, you ask one more vulnerable question than I was ready to answer and I crashed it. I like to believe I’ve earned some new license over my inner life – and I’ve done it all to love you more, but how I speak to you can sound more like the smirk of twisted metal you say I wear in aftermath, when we walk out a restaurant stunned and paces apart, headlight-scared flash-bang regret rebounding all over the inside of my skull. And I still carry that, hours later Once again, I promise to get some good help, promise to start to get better again, but I remain that driver – madly ordinary until the aggravated moment, eyes collided, blinking through smoke, tonguing blood in the mouth. New pain occludes all familiar of my body. I might lie, stand up, walk away from a blow at speed like some modern miracle, but I am changed. I have died in me, prematurely, and every time.
John Miller is the founder and facilitator of Portland Ars Poetica (https://www.meetup.com/Portland-Ars-Poetica/), an ongoing literary poetry workshop located in Portland, OR open to any local poet who seeks to hone their craft. His short fiction has appeared in Tethered by Letters. His poetry has been published in the 9Bridges anthology Over Land and Rising and by Glass Facets of Poetry, with work forthcoming in The Esthetic Apostle. John was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He has a BA in English from Amherst College. “All Around Us, as you might guess, has no pleasant inspiration. Most directly, it emerged from thoughts on a needless argument with my wife – that did, in fact, spark and flame inside a restaurant, over lunch. The imagery of a car crash is partly too that day – where, in retrospect, I suffered roadside premonitions of what was about to happen – but also a composite of imagery I carry from being the passenger in a t-bone car crash a couple years ago. Both a crash and an argument are traumatic events are what I’m trying to say in this poem – the latter more subtly so, of course, and intensified through accumulation of time and repetition. The poem took me to explore both the outer landscape of driving – though I am a practiced driver, the everyday miracle of an uneventful highway ride doesn’t escape me – but also an inner landscape, where the hazards are of personality, how that interacts inside a relationship; how we may feel we escape small tragedy, and how it takes us anyway. I tried to write the poem as an apology, but the poem refused to bend all the way that way, at least when I read it to myself. “