The three following poems by Joe Milford are vast, sweeping, and self-sustaining. They move under power of their own feet, their own feats, even. These are the sort of poems that The Nepotist always finds inspiring, the kind that, when I read them, I'm almost invariably fooled into thinking that I can write poems that cut through their own vast, sweeping, self-sustaining spaces, too. It's not that they're facile-- good heavens, these aren't. But they crease the origami of their lines so smartly that I'm tricked into thinking that, given the paper yourself, I too could fold a thousand vellum cranes. What Joe employs to make these work so well is an ease-of-speech, a well of experience, a steady diction, and the ability to not be distracted from his subject. If you've enjoyed his online poetry show as I have, you'll even hear his voice in your head as you read these to yourself.
FIRST SALVO, TEST VOLLEY
Some have been wounded.
This story ends with wonders.
Roll the die. Guitar solos
Fall from the sky, pelting
Your sprawling personal Vegas.
My horse ran from the gunshots.
I'm writing from the escarpment.
Did my letters get homes? The kinds I'd have
Healed in? You hold your important spheres.
I wonder to about the dangers of those axes.
This place is a trodden heaven.
I call it Exhiliation. Sod afflatum.
The street's darkness only said
Let me breathe, and I never asked,
I just looked once, and there, everytime,
There was always light in that fastidious black.
I ask if it is okay for paper, like a writer.
Usually, I depend on the cosmos or carwrecks.
Usually, I am lucky for keys and ink-soaked ribbons.
I incriminate--let Degas paint me absinthed on a bench.
In sign language, I am a sidewalk crossing.
Never to be satiated embrace that with a run-on sentence.
To hell with thou cavalcade--I'd rather eat moldy manna.
Come-on and nuke the saturated savannahs.
We in the jungle of social braid and fiber optic brocade.
Let's quake waiting for it--that dropping hard hammer.
I wish Wordsworth were here talking of dissecting nature's ears.
Crimes of fathers that are shivers of shrapnel or rain.
An etude for Wordsworth--I could buy some new strings
For an Aeolian harp, new mortar for an abbey;
I could introduce Stephen Jay Gould to him in the afterlife
And talk of daffodils and the spiral of the ammonite.
I could be humanistic (not scientist, not Romantic--just right).
The new protocol was always the same protocol--
Watch your flank, march, put the strongest or the most hated
At the point and hope for the best
(reward them who leave with their legs
Still attached). Be feckless--reckless for books
Of blood-script and in certain states, admire these lies--
Play the greater hand under the wasps' wings.
The gulf above your head, the dire background.
Spitting out the fingernails, prostate at the cinema.
"And you thought that you could make it" became
The title of the movies of our lives. And you thought
That you could make it without being used and without
Being used in turn. I have no receipts for any of it.
There are orbs of truth that break by accident.
The twigs snap and ceramics crack alerting many hunters.
This joke is its own candor; destruction is a wave
In a stadium. Realization is a particle in an aquarium.
Give me some light waves use each other like a din of receipts
Pushing the numbers like nature would. Orbs of
Truth I break by accident—while orb hording.
Psychological warfare only exists in poems,
Or at least I heard a tree say that, while falling in a tempest.
When truth takes off its skin, there's more and more of it,
And we cringe. The aurora borealis can be caused by palm-pilot.
The possible is in that pillbox. Your friend is the cumulonimbus,
Its acidic promise. Wash in the within of not--"Everyone's life
Is the same life if you live long enough": great poet Charles Wright.
Nod off in the acumen of besot.
You dove into technology
And only one white dove stabbed out.
I am just trying to help these people into the well.
We don't lilt like bugs do (we impale).
They suckle blood and move;
We suck and suck and suck and stay.
Locusts on vacation in disarray.
Wind, wind through me like a wicker soul
A screen door on a condemned house.
Those droplets are wasted--wipe your brow.
Safety is the other good lie, a sty on the eye of the sun.
Move through and on, caloric chariot of desire.
You are as strong as the next white blood cell fight.
Do not accept your lot—shed the gorgeous poisons.
Ignite . Go into your zoo with all of your might.
Some poems come in with a shredded noose around their necks and ask for
Some poems are papyrus in a skiff in a dried riverbed.
Some poems are armadillo thorned taloned whale baleen cartilage.
Some poems wait on street corners for their man.
Some poems are not poems insomuch in that they prisms.
Some poems go like fourth grader loses tooth in gym class.
Some poems were lost the first time you wrote them just like this one.
Some poems make my dick hard.
Some poems can scare a deer into jumping into barbed wire.
Some poems hunt fox and pigeon.
Some poems are the best and worst dogs you ever had.
There is a poem that can kill a shepherd. one can kill a barber. one can kill a day-
Some poems are aeroplanes not airplanes.
Some poems only occur on ballcaps or bumperstickers.
Sometimes idiot politicians accidentally say poems.
Some poems are sometimes. once. never. twice interdimensionally. thrice.
Some poems are a tight necktie.
Some poems flat-out refuse with violent vigor to be tree or bird poems. go figure.
Some poems ask you how it feels to be shit-kicked.
Some poems have never seen rain before and don't care to.
Some poems never got written by Jesse James but they should have been.
Some poems are quiet the first time they ever see her.
Some poems outright refuse to tell the future.
One or two poems you will meet tonight will attempt to swashbuckle.
Poems do not give power point presentations.
I met a poem once that would beat you with its own femur.
Some poems insist on being called thoroughfares and not roads. oblige 'em.
Some poems want to be outfalls but they are stuck as lakes.
Some poems study the science of speleology.
Some poems don't believe in luck but pretend to long enough to trick you.
Some poems ask you straight to your face why you killed yourself.
Some poems radically defy Olber's paradox.
Some poems are goatsuckers and they fear them in Puerto Rico.
Some of these no-good-for-nothing poems need to be deloused before you read
Some poems are bitches.
Some poems will only eat food from a diner that serves barbecue.
Some poems can give you a stroke.
Some poems will never tell you their daughter's names.
I saw a poem tap an aquifer of the most pure water and then drink it all before we
could taste it.
Some poems insist on calling a rusty pocketknife a rapier and you best let them.
Some poems taste like litchi.
Some poems prefer furry toilet seats. I don't read those.
Some poems are the two or three matches in the jumbo box of matches you get at
Some poems are paramours.
Some poems just say Wyclif Wyclif Wyclif Wyclif over and over and over and
The T-square can measure a poem once--no more than.
Some poems have eyes like the monstera--the Swiss cheese leaves.
Some poems have come back from hell without their eyes and need your help.
Some poems are rubber bands in summertime.
Some poems had to bartend for a while to afford their rent.
Some poems need a can-opener.
Some poems crochet on airplanes to hide their uneasiness in marriages.
Some poems haunt underwater photo-shoots.
Some poems are in toto.
Certain poems agree to just become a part of the transcendental clonoid.
I had a poem turn into a blouse one time and it had a bullethole in it. no shit.
Some poems only travel by pedalo.
All poems are satyagraha. of course they are. this advances English empires.
Some poems play football with leather helmets on and tumors wandering their
Some poems come scarless to you to remind you that they were not born from
At least one sidewalk you ever walked the full length of in your life was not a
Every ant on the planet is a type of poem. a mirror of everyone also typing.
Out of all of the grocery bags I have placed under my sink for three years, at least
one's a poem.
Some poems are eyebrows.
Some poems zip kabang.
Some poems ride railroad cars across the country like remora.
Some poems drop a cool pail to the bottom of a well and draw back up for you to
Some poems only wear white t-shirts.
Some poems don't like the avant garde as they churn butter. it's kosher.
Some poems are only about sails. some poems are only about storms.
Some poems are a haystack or a kayak.
Some poems are hot air balloons, the first ones ever, from Peru.
Stupid poems suckle.
Some poems rely on SIGINT. Scary shit.
One poem I read was the Piltdown man. That was a let-down.
Once my stepfather shot a poem into a horse with colic. She was a Palomino.
Once a poem was snowy mountains drawn with crayons.
Some poems are Eskimos of the worst variety.
Rotting tigerlilies are poems. So is sea salt.
Some poems chase tail.
Some poems have tail or tails. or try to chase tail, those randy bastards.
Some poems are coins never to be tossed or spent.
Some big-hair bands never leave New Jersey--are those poems?
Some poems refuse to be victims. readers find this vague. insplintering.
Some poems are desklamps and they feel they need more love you know?
Some poems only talk to Clive Owen. some poems don't blame them.
Some poems smoke weed until they are over it. the it is up for choice, what-not.
Some poems collect scarves and hovel in bunkers and hover over silos.
Some poems evade radar by flying under swamps.
Some poems are a changed diaper.
Poems are O-mouths in ecstasy.
Poems and such and so, perhaps, ergo, and so on: hack. indulge, forward, xerox.
Soon some poems will eat shmores with a shmoe.
Once a poem went into a graveyard and erased all of the stars. that hasn't
Some poems are no shit, no shit--for real.
Some poems do ceremonial dances and have no feet. They hover-tate.
Some poems in my blood won't let me quit this poem.
Some poems are an artistic drunken back-alley in Savannah, Georgia pizzle.
Some poems are a messmate for fucksake. Then they drink sake.
My wife asked me how to end a poem tonight.
I will never tell her how. I will tell her they have no end.
She thinks me cruel. she thinks me an authority. She says I snore with dishes to
Some poems are just the dried beans in the cabinet waiting.
Some poems linger about a marriage like an endless display of cabinets.
All poems are what is not opened not what is left nor rust on the hinge.
for my family
I was born in the country Cnidaria. I was not metachronal
Nor planktonic. We were not actually fish. We behaved
Always as if submerged. We became living umbrellas
Because of the rain we created. We floated in air waiting
For rain. In Cnidaria, you are already always underwater.
You are salty and know it. You guard the shit out of your salt.
We were named for skyphos, Greek for drinking cup. Irony
In our vibrating membranes. Rust upon the lips and names.
In Cnidaria, as a group, we are called a bloom. I am sure
An atom bomb is also called this with proper altitude.
When you died, father Aurelia, I was watching a special
About jellyfish. Even in Cnidaria, I receive fiber optic
Surges through my nematocysts. I get the messages.
Polyp I am. Polyps kill us. Polyps of blood siblings
Go to funerals. We all must drift upon the tides, though,
And our particular species lungs about as best it can.
I am not honoring the man. I know I am avoiding
The true bloom. It hurts in me, the barb inserting its
Poison. Like Ramen noodles trickling down from
A floating city and attacking--an alien UFO image,
But we are still all walking umbrellae. It is not raining
Again until Papa Joe says so. I miss that guy. I miss
Being underwater in his thoughts. I miss being in his
Woodshop. I mainly miss those minutes when I thought
It was going to be okay--he stretched my childhood out.
He showed me warp and saw and craft and whittle. Poet
He was. When you are falling through the death of a father,
Umbrellas hardly slow your view of the impact trampoline.
In Cnidaria, the spawning of new umbrellae is controlled
By light. We need light to make us. Funny that we are not
Transparent enough in Cnidaria. Most great restaurants
Can and do serve us. We are menu items--easily dispersed.
There is a great fluorescent protein, called aequorian,
Which illuminates all dark and liquid things. I think
It even illuminates blood. Papa Joe is swimming through
My veins, his umbrella billowing, his protein giving
Its faint yellow-green light; he plants Cnidaria inside of me;
He makes me into a floating well-lit city. I pulse back to him
As best I can, in my own billows; I undulate, breathing flames
Underwater, a miracle for him--breathing away from the bloom.
About the Poet:
Joseph Victor Milford is a full time professor of English and a published poet. His first collection, Cracked Altimeter, is being published by BlazeVox books. He is married to the poet Chenelle Milford and is the host of The Joe Milford Poetry Show (http://joemilfordpoetryshow.com) and co-editor of the literary journal, SCYTHE (http://scytheliteraryjournal.com).
On the identity of The Nepotist:
One of the problems with nepotism is that it is rarely so openly embraced. It’s a secret handshake thing—the “good-old-boy” network. I like this open display of friendship publication. Still, I see its many controversies. Hopefully, all of our “good friends” here are good poets, and I include myself in that statement—I’ll embrace nepotism rather than pretense these days. Stay a mystery, editor sans nomenclature.