Jesse Millner’s work has appeared most recently in River Styx, Pearl, Atlanta Review, and Slant. He has published four poetry chapbooks, The Drowned Boys (March Street Press, 2005), On the Saturday After the Rapture (Main Street Rag, 2006), I Give You This Ghost, and Holy Numbers (Pudding House Publications, 2007, 2008.) His first full-length poetry book, The Neighborhoods of My Past Sorrow, was released by Kitsune Books in March 2009. Jesse teaches writing courses at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida.
All of Us and Every Thing
I’m old and leaning
toward Whitman’s exquisite voice,
can almost feel his rough whiskers on my cheek.
He whispers this world, this whirling, twirling dervish of stone,
water, vegetable, mineral, animal, mystery,
all of it is one. Lo, this earth is a swimming
creature, and the black heavens are its sea.
Lo, all of us and every thing, mammal,
obsidian, maize, tadpole,
are atoms in the greater body,
one piece of the singular whole.
When I breathe, the earth breathes,
and when I sleep,
I rest in the greater shade
of a dreaming planet.
In Praise of Small Gods
I’m all for leaving this world,
entering that bright space
of becoming like dew drops
on the morning buttercups
I planted last week before all the rain came.
Already they bloom yellow with
first light—6:30 a.m., that
magic time when the palms
and pines emerge from the darkness,
when light clings to the edges
of bougainvillea and philodendron,
when the marsh rabbit fights
with the hungry ravens for fallen
seeds from the bird feeder.
I remember the colors
of last night’s river,
the minor Mississippi
that flowed through my dreams,
how I bent down toward the current,
pulled tiny, glimmering fish
from the branch shadows.
And this morning I awoke at dawn
and knew the time by the texture
of that early light—still, grey,
but gathering meaning.
And then, a cup of coffee
on the back porch, stars still
spinning in the heavens, moisture
gleaming across the yard
like a fallen constellation.
I breathe in
these small gods, these
scents and ghosts and shadows
that rise in early morning,
and I swear I see Eden
burning just behind
the wall of palm
that shields us from the drainage
ditch, where a million mosquitoes
buzz like tiny angels.
I praise this morning,
I praise drainage ditch and mosquitoes,
I praise the tiny insect stings,
which argue for my own life,
yes, with each bite
my flesh tingles with meaning,
and with each brightening
moment, the world around me
comes into greater focus,
until it is finally Florida, a feast
of flowers, bugs and
the bright fields of this moment, when the dog’s
soft fur against my foot
argues for life
more than any priest,
more than any religion,
more than any supernatural
explaining of this sputtering, beautiful world
fired with the tangible meaning of root, stem, petal,
bone, feather, beak.