jane miller





In a town famous long ago

for its field of irises and its bridge

with seven sections (like a poem!),

and an annual horse market,

and scattered clouds,


I stroll on holiday with my wife.

I have brought her here for a rest, 

and to buy her silk.

She works so hard

thinking, for so little,

and for untoward people

for whom even a kindness 

is a mysterious thing

they dare not acquiesce to,

like a wild animal, a monkey or deer, all day on the hunt

for chestnuts, mushrooms, and bugs.

It’s true, the office has made them sad.


We stroll the shops along the quay.

She takes my hand, and for that

honor I blush, and set my shoulders square,

and smile at children, for only they

aren’t embarrassed by my joy.

Seven years of good luck

such that silks are sadly not enough,

but must suffice because I have spent much

on this trip already, on an inn and meals and wine.

The wine especially made my wife fiery and pure,

last night she whispered and sang

original lyrics to old tunes,

taking my name on a rhyming tour of gardens

and oceans. The sea especially made me weep,

and her, too, and in that bath we slept.

She begs me not approach the stall.

That already she is full.

But lemon and orange silks

and the watermelon reds of her youth

burst from a passing cloud.

So, too, her face squints in the lights,

and the owner, on one leg because of the war,

is so happy to see her

she halves the price and doubles the shawls.

I feel I know her from some other world,

but drifting (unintentionally!) to her single shoe,

I lose her glance

to a shyness.


My love wishes to see the irises.

Not many this year.

We muse about the weather.

At the far end,

a second shop of tie-dyed wear.

The owner, strangely, again, familiar.

This time I meet his eyes

with my heart, and recognize my father,

back from his losing war

with cancer. Father! Walter! I try

a rush of names (sailor! lover! I take him

on a rhyming tour), but he vanishes

across the first of many bridges,

which are hoisted by hand,

when a boat with high masts passes,

by men of humble birth,

scarved in baggy purple and green pants,

and though I run like a wave over the seven bridges

of the town, of the world,

he is nowhere. My wife loves me

through my loss, which because of my selfishness

she describes as a short passage from here to there

I ought to let him take alone, without thinking

that death is like dying and suffering.

This draws me ever closer to my wife.

My father’s light blue light wraps around us,

we hear distant hooves and earth quakes

as if a giant bridge is lifting. Not a single horse

but a hundred, two hundred haunches flying

and dust mingling with clouds. All eternity

in an afternoon of snorting and neighing,

nostrils of song and prayer. This is a fairytale

town on a route paved for an emperor,

painted in afternoon light, where the poor

wear silk because merchants give it for a song,

horses leap over water to pasture,


and bridges rise and fall on heart and soul.

I sing my love (I take her on a rhyming tour)

among the few white irises

of poetry, most honored subject of early spring,

                                                   as I am,

found here romancing among lost grasses.