Joe Milford


Mind runneled with rivulets of old poems.
Over that terrible landscape, a synaptic
Dragonfly clumsily navigates, maybe
Trapped long enough for an idea
To germinate in the pollen from its electric
Pairs of wings—I often open ideas
Like an old pocket-knife. This is my own
Limitation. A terrible functionality
Hindering being open. I am working
On that, un-knifing myself, to an extent.
Most things only seem like terrible bundles
Of Christmas lights—you could easily
Unravel them if you had the patience
Of a dragonfly, but you are even worse—
A manboy think-tank poetry on safari.
Floods can't wash the American cities
Off of me or out of me. Deluge cantina
Mindset with boy scout skills. I wake
From the hoodoo trance after being
Buried alive and tell the slavemaster
I would have worked for him for free
Without all of that psychedelic drugging
And burial, and I remember, when I was
Underground, it was so wooden serene
In my coffin—then they re-served me,
And I had to start running the runnels
The rivulets, teaching canoeing classes—
Becoming the thing that was a zombie
To pass the zombie around the room
And climb inside its body—it's crazy—
Inside the zombie bodies are incredible
Colored buttons, bags of candies of them
That you can activate to animate said
Zombie—the zombie drones are deployed—
They fly through you and you feel
A shudder of of's. It's hard to explain.
You can't either. I try to explain things
To running water as I stick my hand
Into its pulse and expect to be cleansed.
I am not but strickened with hoping this.
Stagger to the sun until you burn down to tar.



Atop hillock


A heart
In a formaldehyde
Filled jar
Is maybe a new
Map of the world


Boiled in the cauldron
Ground in the cistern
Putrefied in the lectern
During an eclipse the sermon
Wired my sinews with ire


Slackjawed at
The apocalyptic
Tarmac, no vessels
Come with their turbines
Churning to save
These souls today


Rock formations
Poor rotted teeth
Of ancient gods
Surrounding the Cyclops
Eye of the campfire
Under a sky like an
Angry maenad


Dusk of spiders
Dawn of bats
Rust on tin roofs
Dust on the leather
Saddle cracked
Prophet’s weather


A rag of a man
More shredded than
The bloody jerkin
Of a crusader


Chert and obsidian
Shale and flint
Saltpeter and sulfur
Earth’s mineral soul
By man is spent


Wading into the grey
Lake, every step pondering
What leviathan lies beneath
The still waters, what bracken
Skin will slither across ankles


What does he mean
By “the autistic dark”?
I think I know when I hear
The howls over the stark
Flat plain dusted with the resin
Of flattened ancient kingdoms


Dark salty hunks of pan-greasy
Country ham
Slogged down with


A lantern
Or a Molotov cocktail?
It’s both
Or neither


Cuts our workboots
As we walk to the
Western idiom


You come to me
With the black feather
You write with
On the skins of dead fish
Who swam the oceans
At the dawn of time


Knapsack with a sextant in it
In the middle of the barren desert


An hourglass in a sandstorm
A divining rod on the ocean floor
A flint frozen in an iceberg
A river under a burning bridge
A flower vulcanized and preserved in ash
A soul inside a man


Cast-iron forearm
With traintrack veins
Grips the lanyard
This will won’t be broken


A mistlethrush in the bush
Is no longer a sign of spring
And under the ice the fish

Are still frozen—sleeping


Ruins and epiphanies
Freefalls into Hades
The new bibles written
In the leather of the sun-salted
Skin and the crow’s feet pulling
Your eyes back open again
To daily omens who like
Colossi or titans browbeat the land
Into sediment and submission


Sea washing up birdbones
And husks of hermit crabs
Sea washing up legions
Of parables and diatribes
Sea washing up the busted
Clock-guts of the innards
Of a paradigm that once
Drove us across an abyss
To stab flags into the sand
Glory scoured upon the grist
Of every shore as doubloons
And fools’ gold litters ocean floors


Deck of cards
Sewing kit
3 rounds, wrong gun


I held my childhood
On the end of a string
Dangled it down into
The dark crack

And something preternatural
Something sinister, primal
Devoured that morsel
And now I hold the frayed
Tendril in my fingers


Cracked mirror
Of a salt flat
God’s face
Reflected in that
Yet this mirage
Is dangerous
And has led me far
From Nineveh
Onto the road to

Abstract Expressions of the Pulmonary System

the heart is a battleship turned inside-out and it can symphony.
deflated rhino-skinned football in gutter at shopping mall.
dried bulbs never to meet earth in cistern molding no tulips blooming.
a man with a recently-severed arm learning his prosthesis, stump itching.
an idea curled like a fetus and never named nor spoken.
greatest book ever written in the belly of a shark slowly dissolving.

the secret locked inside of your hand right there behind the thumb.
the surprise party victim right when he is struck fumble-dumb.
superior vena cave, tricuspid, atrium, ventricle—chambers of music.
meadows in a summer storm with heat lightning like torn muslin.
the thing the end of the world said to the beginning of the world.
a first of all time, a white orange, an octopus walking on land, a cat with gills.

the heart had a good idea, like underwater railroad transit systems.
hearts aren't made for managing ideas and high-speed aquatic locomotion.
piece of deadwood collected and nailed to a wall where patrons brood.
a canoe with the lake housed in its belly that floats on men's undulating backs.
the spiraling daredevil aviator pilot recovering from the vampire attack.
poker bluff in a coffee can, the death-threat in a ramekin, road-tar on a dime.

a thorn with personality, a poison with wiles, a toxin-bearing child.
1000 snakes wrapped in a knot writhing perpetual and pretending they are not.
young terrorist spit into maw of martyrdom in pizza-parlor detonation.
lilac tree drooping over a willow tree's skeleton weeds sucking, choked.
boxing glove in a vise squeezed until the plastic skin peels and muscles scream.
pulmonary, mitral, septum, aorta, myriad blood-red ants traversing our systems.

a piano slowly incinerating in an acid bath as eunuchs operate its last songs.
something with wings something with teeth something also eggshell fragile.
a god crashlanded into our mitochondria set-up shop built a city of hearts.
an intelligence like a Venus Flytrap, a stealthy predator, a mucus regurgitator.
the most gorgeous implosion the heart a Jell-O knife that cuts and is also edible.
your friend lost in the woods inside of you and you call her in muffled cries.

the insomnia wolf that stalks through closets and growls is also the heart.
spaceship crashing into the bacterial asteroid the demigod hits the eject button.
the toilet where your emotions go as degenerates sing Christmas carols.
every fireworks store on the planet exploding because of one moment.
the Escher tetragrammaton wherein which we always walk up/down simultaneous.
the heart, that deficit, that gorgeous winged child who we can't keep innocent.

Joseph Victor Milford is a Professor of English and a Georgia writer who is currently working on his EdD doctoral studies. He was born in Alabama in 1972, and he went on to receive his Bachelors degree from the University of West Georgia, in English and Philosophy, and then his MFA in Poetry from the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. His first collection of poems, Cracked Altimeter, was published by BlazeVox Press in 2010, and he is presently composing a collection of poems with Hydeout Press, forthcoming in 2015. He is also the host of The Joe Milford Poetry Show, where he has compiled an archive of over 300 interviews and readings with American and Canadian poets. He is also a member of the Southern Collective Experience.
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