By Greg Miller b. 1957 Greg Miller
We pass the straits of the Cape
where grazing whales gather,
though they’re not, I’m told, social
creatures by nature.
Alice asks how they can sleep
if they must think to breathe.
Cranial hemispheres wink and wake
and alternate,
so whales are half-awake
and half-asleep, balanced between each
of our states
through dive and breach.
Once on the kitchen wall
of a dune shack I saw,
like a headdress,
the baleen of a whale—
frayed filaments
run from a thin,
curled, rib-like bone:
sieves for the sea.
Like this sickle-moon fin
“negatively buoyant”
I sink in sleep,
but end, I think, where I begin.
Following one as it leaves
two other whales we see
suddenly not what we’re heading for
but the asymmetrically
colored snout of a fin whale
as it rises parallel
within a stone’s
throw of the boat,
the great eye set back
water crashing rushing
to let me see where it ought to be.
I lose track,
the mottled chin’s marble
veined, swirling
through its green veil, which
the top jaw slits.
And then, that’s it,
I think. Nights I’m thrown
upright from my rest. Brine
thumps my chest.

Greg Miller, "Watch" from Watch. Copyright © 2009 by Greg Miller.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

Source: Watch (The University of Chicago Press, 2009)

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Poet Greg Miller b. 1957

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, Life Choices, The Mind, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Animals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams


Poet Greg Miller grew up in Kentucky and studied French literature and political science at Vanderbilt University. He earned an MA in English and creative writing from Stanford University and a PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Miller is the author of the collections Iron Wheel (1998), Rib Cage (2001), Mississippi Sudan (2006), and Watch (2009). Wide-ranging in his interests, he has written on southern . . .

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Poems by Greg Miller

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SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, The Mind, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Animals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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