Stephen Paul Miller


  They are in the surface
Where the multiforms prosper.
Nothing wrong with prosperity
With a twist
Sounding out the excesses.
If the housekeeper locks the door
I’ll give you my keys.
You ride your bike like a throne.
Humanity is suffocating
But I don’t want you to say it is 
Just because I said it.
The next curve is an all over
Where entry doors snap
Till you shut your mirroring boom.
A Cliff Bar is everything
And you want no more.
I can assure you 
Independent of it being true.


The Maypole is reborn.
The spiderwebs around it
           taste like lemons.
If all time stuck its neck out
The French Revolution would
        reach its goal
Of bizarre and total immersion
In a really cool fraternity.
History is never history till it isn’t
But mountains know the score.
Books drop in the welcome fire,
A kind of Harold and Maude move
But the ocean is ducky soup 
And you never lose it.
Sometimes the ocean writes out
                                     its guts.
Sometimes it drops to batty depths.
Where’d the ocean go?
We now switch you 
      your newly appointed dictator.
The guests are singing up his anthem
And as chairwoman of the reception committee
I sponsor his fascism as a fallback position. 
Don’t worry. Dick Tater’s only half here.
Why change now? Can’t you hear?
The strings are ducky too.
They chime in mad boxes
           that float
In chambers where the tariff is taken up
To higher and higher climes.
I get in touch with it myself.


On the seventh day God makes cake,
     likes pie better but
           too late!
I tell God over and over
You can’t spur a full-pie economy
        with cake—End the ideology, God, 
                  grow up—There’s no clear line between pie and cake! 


There I was 
at a March 1st, 2015 
Public Theater performance 
of Hamilton—sitting 
serendipitously close 
to Bill and Hillary. 
I didn’t know it yet, 
but that night The Times 
would break Hillary’s private 
email server story,
and throughout the intermission 
she crouched at the edge of her seat with her phone
as her husband stood beside her in the aisle greeting his fans
perhaps shielding her and Chelsea.

Magnetically drawn to Bill 
I glided with pleasant ease through 
Secret Service agents 
straight to the great man 
at the other end of my section 
just one row in front of me. 

It was uncanny not knowing 
if it were more through the roof 
to be with a then popular ex-president 
or score a ticket to Hamilton, 
and I decided to talk with him 
about both the play 
                                and politics.

I waited my turn and said, 
       “Hamilton’s ‘bailout’ wasn’t like the 2008 one.” 

The former president looked toward me and focused. 
It felt as if we were standing on the moon together. 

“My administration tried refinancing underwater mortgages.
Did you know that?” 

I didn’t but stuck to my point: 
“Jefferson went along with Hamilton
on the debt assumption because 
he didn’t have any better ideas.”

“No,” said Bill, “He got the capital moved to Washington.” 

“Yes,” I replied, “but mostly 
Jefferson didn’t have any better ideas, and,
even as president, he didn’t go back on Hamilton.” 

William Jefferson Clinton
took this in as if a revelation, 
smiled knowingly, 
then beamed broadly as if to empathize
with a president, one he was named after,
who knew the art of striking 
a deal with the dreaded opposition for a purely 
Pyrrhic political victory. 

“That’s very interesting,” 
Bill said in a savvy tone of self-recognition. 

Jefferson moved toward Hamilton early. 
“We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” 
his 1801 inaugural famously announced. 

And Bill too 
brought “the party of the people” closer to its foe. 

At the 1980 Democratic National Convention, he wanted us 
to face the end of post-World War II 
prosperity and tackle new problems 
like “inflation” and “debt”—

       nonsense of course  
since American productivity 
then as now was rising.

It is only the rich gouging 
excess profit from worker productivity
that’s the “problem.” 

In April 1993, Bill told his cabinet,
 “Where are all the Democrats?
I hope you’re all aware we’re Eisenhower 
Republicans now standing for lower deficits 
and free trade and the bond market! Isn’t that great?”

Then came the Republican stuff: NAFTA, ‘94 crime bill, 
‘96 welfare reform, repealing Glass-Steagall, 
Defense of Marriage Act, and deregulating derivatives, banks, and telecom. 

The second act announced, I told Bill, 
“It was nice talking with you.” 
“It was nice talking with you,” 
he emphasized with soft Southern conviction.

Stephen Paul Miller is a Professor of English at St. John's University in New York City. He is the author of several books including The Seventies Now: Culture as Surveillance (Duke University Press) and The New Deal as a Triumph of Social Work: Frances Perkins and the Confluence of Early Twentieth Century Social Work with Mid-Twentieth Century Politics and Government(Palgrave Macmillan) and eight poetry books including There’s Only One God and You’re Not It (Marsh Hawk), Being with a Bullet (Talisman), That Man Who Ground Moths into Film (New Observations) Art Is Boring for the Same Reason We Stayed in Vietnam (Domestic), Any Lie You Tell Will Be the Truth (Marsh Hawk), The Bee Flies in May (Marsh Hawk), Fort Dad (Marsh Hawk), and Skinny Eighth Avenue (Marsh Hawk). Miller also co-edited, with Daniel Morris, Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture (University of Alabama Press), and, with Terence Diggory, The Scene of My Selves: New Work on New York School Poets (National Poetry Foundation). His work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Salon, Publisher’s Weekly, New American Writing, Posit, Lit, Jacket, Columbia Review, Pataphysics, William Carlos Williams Review, Zeek, Black Clock, Scripsi, Shofar, Mipoesias, Boundary 2, Columbia Review, Humanities Review, Body: Poetry/Prose/Word, American, Letters and Commentary, Another Chicago Magazine, Paterson Review, Eoagh, Coconut, Zen Monster, Poetry New York, Mudfish, Tygerburning Literary Journal, St. Mark's Poetry Project Newsletter, Appearances, Bowery Poetry Club, Brooklyn Rail, New Observations, Other Voices Israel, Literature around the Globe, Critiphoria, Professional Studies Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Tribe of John (University of Alabama Press), Burning Interiors (Farleigh Dickinson University Press), Reading the Difficulties (forthcoming from University of Alabama Press), Marsh Hawk Review, The Contemporary Narrative Poem: Critical Crosscurrents (University of Iowa Press), The New Promised Land: An Anthology of Contemporary Jewish, American Poetry, and elsewhere. His plays have been performed at The Kitchen, PS 122, La Mama, St. Mark's Poetry Project, Bowery Poetry Project, University of Vermont, 8BC, Life Cafe, Darinka,and Intersections in San Francisco. Miller originated the Ear Inn Poetry Reading Series and has edited the innovative National Poetry Magazine of the Lower East Side, Poetry Mailing List, and Critiphoria. He was a Senior Fulbright Scholar at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.
previous page     contents     next page


Post a Comment

<< Home