Reading Miller's poetry has been likened to obtaining tickets to exotic places both real and imagined. In Eat Quite Everything You See - the fourth collection of her verse - she offers a wry and compelling series of wanderings through the ever-changing landscapes of Europe. With an inquisitive spirit and a generous sense of humor, Miller investigates the experience of otherness in a foreign land, exploring also the phenomena of human culture, womanhood, independence, desire, and love.
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About the Author
Leslie Adrienne Miller has written three previous books of poetry. She has also won numerous awards, including an NEA Fellowship and a Loft McKnight Award. She is currently an associate professor of English at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Eat Quite Everything You See
By Leslie Adrienne Miller
Graywolf PressCopyright © 2002 Leslie Adrienne Miller
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE ANARCHIST Only on the way to evening does the sea begin to come back, the hills between here and there, which were sharply green, attentive all day, go blue. Great blots of shadow appear where Aleppos shelter succulents. At evening the harbor too comes back, its white blear warming with yellow, each roof slant and wall stripe clarifying into the somewhere they are but weren't in our minds all day because the light doesn't allow the eye that far in summer. Little silver fish of a plane sliding east, boat flecks unfastened from their distances materialize with evening. Possible roads emerge, meander, disappear; windows flare like stolen squares of the way the water will, at last, return. We will never see people on the coast, not at this reach, but we see what the light does to them, which is more than they know of us. We are less than shadow to them, crouched on the south side of a mountain. We lose the light before they and are safe. The promontory of our village is a prow, and we echo the sea so it cannot detect us. Our noise. Our bread breaking. The damp stones inside our houses silence all sunder and flux. Those who live down by the sea return to it at night, and we study their spilled light, imagine their music, which is better than actually hearing it. We know it is impossible there also, cool water standing aside for the Pastis. There too they love the cloud rising in the glass. At that edge they drink to bring on the sadness more sweetly; here we drink to fend it off. Either way, the body of water is one of the oldest in the mind. Believing begins near it. There color was born and given its beautiful names: Cobalt, Cadmium, Cerulean, Napoli Yellow, Hansa, Ocre, Nuance de Bleu. The houses could be rocks, the rocks could be roads. The boats could be doubts or birds. That's what art is for: to remind us that we have not seen what we remember having seen. If I say Mediterranean to you now, all this will freeze into azure, and you will lose the richly actual to mere knowledge, the terrible stillness that keeps the eye from going too far. CAUTIONARY TALE for Heid Erdrich My friend believes that people looked a long time at the way storms took the land, the magnificent bruising a brutish sky could give the earth, the green's appalling swift submission to moister air, the way the wind could bully or breeze & and she is sure this is how we learned the art of ravishing. I wish I could agree with her, but I wasn't born this far north, cannot trust how long it takes the spring to come. It scares me, how frost stalks night after night, how every other year, something fails completely to go on. Gardens thin, pavements buckle with melt, and rivers going north forget themselves, sprawl, unlovely, muddy perfect strangers' beds. And though I don't believe my friend, I've accepted life alone here, stopped making my bed, expecting guests. I see how my cottonwood refuses every year to dress until the end of May, and autumn too, that one's last to shed its underthings. The shrubs and hostas have no shame, frill early, and the trillion tulip wands too soon bend and quit, but the reluctance of the trees is almost wise, or simply practiced. If my friend is right, I cannot lend them human traits, but take example from them as I drive along the freeway pushing them with wishes into what they could become, afraid of what the air has done. Ravished by the wind and left for dead too many years to count, those wily silver olives leaf one tight fist at a time, so late it's hardly worth the bother for such a casual fling, and when I push unwilling green along in the drafty copse of my desires, I know it is afraid of something bigger than not blooming, that my own reluctance can't be blamed on any silly disappointing past, but on this very landscape's bad example, dour, dormant most of every year, all heartless self control. ONE MOON VIEW OF PUGET SOUND I loved a boy and green water dared near my feet, roses fell apart in my hands, stones turned their troll shoulders and said go ahead, stumble. And I did. All the green days I combed my straw-colored hair and patted my eyes with creme. All the warm days I hid my dragons in a fen of remembered trees. We went to the edge of his mother, but I wasn't invited to drink. He washed my ribs with a long hand, dressed me, tied my shoes upside down and tight. I loved a boy in a house that wasn't mine. The sun bled most beautifully going off, and stars bounced like unstrung beads on the porch floor. I gave him views given to me. We loved a dog that wasn't ours, pulled limp sheets above our heads against slithers of light, skin that wasn't ours, pillows and dishes and lettuce and basement steps that weren't ours, windows and closets and high ceilings in deep pink rooms, green bricks, white cups full of being not ours. The animals belong to a child younger than all the years between us. Somewhere a clock I never found still ticks. Comes a time in loving when there's nothing to tell, but that the light was right, and the rain behaved. I loved a boy and the gulls wept inside a fog. Nothing happened except that I couldn't remember the name of the flower I loved best in that city, hydrangea, hydrangea, hydrangea, blues and violets so unnatural it hurt to see them swelling at the steps and railings, holding the hills up. Salmon thrashed through us toward the streams of their birth, gaping red slashes where they'd leapt over rocks and piers and come back down behind where they were going, scales and fish flesh streaming away in the backwash. Purple coins of the money bush. I loved a boy because there was a long bandage of water and dark enough for me to smell everything again. His father said he knew a story like this, and it was good. He must have made Spokane by noon. Between love and lust is a green fish, swifter than ever you'd guess, a wish of wings. I'll go home to Russian olives, books and eager autumn, but I cannot look into the face of anyone young without hearing freighters scraping piers, a door nosed open by a cat who wants to walk on that mist. I loved a boy and nothing changed. I knew already what tenderness was, how breath collects behind the knees and two bodies begin to need different skins. My hands are brown as leather and not new. I turn them palm u so they match anyone's. Come now, I'll dress you for all the days ahead. I'll hold your feet like heavy blooms about to fall apart. I loved a boy and lost nothing except momentum. Ferries polish away the fog and the islands hunker while something, is it wind?, rocks the wicker rocker. A house here and there blinks out of the fog, and I can tell you this which was once secret: I've wanted anyone's child all along. NATURE MORTE A small scorpion kicks, caught in a spider's web over the desk where I am expected to write as many great things as possible with the gifts of time and this famous light. Somewhere my mother has read that lavender repels scorpions, and she advises me of this is a letter, as if it were a tip for removing blood from a fine lace, blood she knows I would otherwise leave, as I do the scorpion, to rust into a souvenir. Perhaps she has also read that lavender opens the taps of male desire - but that, she keeps to herself. The scorpion hangs here exhausted, the elegant comma of its tail rooted, pincers open, its fringe of legs spilled in air. It will take days for the quiescence the spider desires - her splayed limbs slight, and crooked as scratches or the invisible joints of a skeleton's unlocked knuckles - but rhetorical as the long muscle-wrapped arm that reaches for God on the domed chapel ceiling, one finger fully extended with the knowledge that what it reaches for is obtainable. In one of the scorpion's surrenders to languor, the spider ascends to him gently - I've no idea what she intends - this being a foreign country, and I here in the woods with no library or book to tell me whether she'd like him dead or simply alive but paralyzed. She moves to the still point of the tail's end, where she sketches thin descriptions of the deadly part - she's so light in her hunger, he doesn't seem to know that she's there until she's on him. The web, designed for balance so true, stillness and movement are one, gives as he curls his spine, pincers and tail spired above his back, the free legs treading air and rocking them both - though lightly, because her web, after all, is a soft place. I don't have to tell you how much I'd like her to have him, how I admire the bright strings of glue she's strapped on his corded segments, every bead of his bulk and swagger. She's got his right pincer wrapped in her opal gauze, and the stinger. She makes her patient runs down the invisible ladder of her hunger and throws another rope around his amber hind leg, pins it to the arch of his torso. He's strung up like a puppet, the free pincer clasping the air with its tiny tongs, trying to clip the cord on the other, but every time he touches himself, he sticks. It is still possible that the spider will squander three days and all her threads on the scorpion, then, that I, forgetting her, might simply close the flimsy curtain over my desk on which she's built her web. If I were to take a lover suddenly. One simple sweep of cloth across the plane, a gesture to satisfy my hunger rather than hers - and they'd both be on the floor, he running, trailing her broken threads and missing the use of any of his eight legs still glued with her sap. It might have been easier for her, were it a fly, a mosquito, but no, it is this - a monster which looked yesterday like luck, and today like possible catastrophe. The foolish scorpion has lifted his free left arm to pinch the wire that holds his right, and now, that one too is glued. By morning, he's stopped thrashing, strung up by the end of his tail alone. She's unwrapped the mitt of gauze from his pincer, touched it lightly to the other. Though he's not dead. Nor does it matter now if and when he does die: it's the shape she's made of him that graces me, a gesture: the beads of his tail, the blue bow of his back and tiny amber bubbles of his underparts - she's turned him into a rosary let down from the hand bead by bead, still warm with the pressure of prayer.
Excerpted from Eat Quite Everything You See by Leslie Adrienne Miller Copyright © 2002 by Leslie Adrienne Miller. Excerpted by permission.
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