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  4. Weaning by Leslie Adrienne Miller

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I. Deer Season
The quiet of windows pours its sand in my ear.
What, what? ask the dolls of evening
though they do not wish to hear my answer.
Five hens are alive in the brush, purring
toward the slough. No one here has a rifle
but the wind turns abruptly and returns a report.
Three bright orange vests hang at the ready.
The doe turns in her frame above the stove,
and her season climbs like the moon into its place
in the sky’s clock. The green theater
with it’s elegant aspens goes more threadbare
each week, so I’ll soon see the others, heretofore
only heard. Just to the south the casino lights
ride the underbellies of clouds, and further
down the interstate more world twirls
in its paper and drinks, while the baby throws
his feet through the bars, and the father
takes him like a little canoe on the billowy
lake of his chest. Comes a mewling, then,
from my dark, a mooing, a whine, feathered
or furred I can’t divine. The girl with the flat face
and bleached lips read her poems in crisp
Ivy League whatnot, but I got sidetracked
by the way her torso seemed stacked, pressed
in layers like shale, so there was a weight to her
that hung in the bottom of the eye like the bulk
of a tear that never quite falls. It’s true
the intelligence was clear as green ice, and just
as hard, stripped of its I and heat. Her baby
burbled on in the back of the room happily not
in the poems. Oh little rabbit of grief on the spot
where the last dog was turned under, don’t speak.
I make a fire, then dream a fire: wind carries
its gray rags into the woods, and the crackling
in the grate enters my ducts, wakes me.
When I look out, the grass along the fence
is crawling with light, and the last wild asters
press their blue buttons into the cold glass.
II. The New Year
Zero and a fine hard snow burns
when it hits bare skin. A white
ridge glows inside the birches
across the slough where snow articulates
the distance. Where water moves,
where the land heaves. I haul oak chunks
in a plastic sled. When I bend to stack
the splits, my breasts pop and burn,
and my child’s face rises like a bird
razoring its shadow over the snow.
Wind takes the rag of some old self
and shakes it at me. The heart is only
another shape the view stretches to include.
Birches march out of the hardwoods
with their white waists radiant, so many
clones on one taproot. A jay circles
the full feeders fending off smaller birds.
I make this vocal gesture because self
is simply one edge of me. Out here
there’s only an economy of wood burned
or to be burned, how much water’s left
in the tank, how hard or soft the light.
Degrees and drafts. This room and everything in it
are mine, and though I try to be selfish and grim,
my child has made me enduringly plural,
more than I, but not quite we.
Black-capped chickadees flee
from three big jays at the feeder. Shrieking
and diving in the strong winter light, the jays
are not actually blue. Their feathers refract light
so they appear blue. Self-luminous,
hardy and belligerent as pronouns.
III. Easter
The kick of the screw finding purchase in pine
slams my wrist bone, elbow and shoulder,
but it’s in, and the panel is up. Now another
and another until the wall is flush. I mark
and cut each length with the small tooth
of the new jigsaw my husband thought
I should have. Two days apart from him
and the child, I’ve forgotten the pump
to empty my breasts, so the saw’s jump
at the end of the cut draws the burning
up. And with it a guilt as bright as the room
where I drive plank after plank against the studs,
each a satisfaction against the body’s wish
to be elsewhere. Even into the night, I can’t put
down my drill. I stoke the fire and drive
more screws, loving the growl when they’re
in as far as they’ll go. The mind arranging
which planks and trim tomorrow, next week
and spring. Even my sleep is a cutting and fastening
broken by my turning on the full globes
of my breasts. So toward morning I dream
of parties given by women I used to know,
and to which I’m not and will never be invited,
trays of fancy sandwiches and petit fours,
half moon glasses of seething champagne.

Leslie Adrienne Miller, “Weaning” from The Resurrection Trade. Copyright © 2007 by Leslie Adrienne Miller. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org
Source: The Resurrection Trade (Graywolf Press, 2007)
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  • Leslie Adrienne Miller is the author of several collections of poetry, including Yesterday Had a Man In It (1998), Eat Quite Everything You See (2002), and The Resurrection Trade (2007). Miller earned her BA in English from Stephens College in Missouri and earned her MA in English from the University of Missouri. Miller holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston.
    The Resurrection Trade, a euphemism for corpse trafficking, is Miller’s poetic investigation of the origins of anatomy and medical illustration. Focusing on the role the female body played in the emerging discipline, Miller’s book offers “a revealing look at the one of the ways women’s bodies have been constructed over time through the eyes of men. The book remains grounded through Miller’s writing of her present day experiences that contain the humanity...

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