Learning to Leave Home


That spring
I counted hydrogen ions, followed waste
through porous membranes
into silent bio-soups,
waited for the nucleus
to wake.
It was
late in the last century: pale
blue moons and sugar cereals,
Baghdad statues coming down,
anti-aircraft tracers
loverly in the amniotic night.


Can you guess
where I’m calling from?

The county jail? A last station on the edge
of the last desert? Are you not

a friend of my youth, and is this
not the end of all things?

So I visited him in the hospital.
We read a story by Le Guin together.

The doors had no locks, not here.
Fishes and eels swarmed in pencil

on the table top between us.


The summer came. I learned
words I was ashamed not to know
already: apocrypha, Septuagint.
Even now these taste of barbecue
sauce, scraped from drive-thru plastic.


By August,
the cheapest burger barn
had closed.

There were rumors.
The franchise owners
were forced out—

Saddam paranoia,
Texas sized. Even now,
the lot is grass-

groped, blank
as leeches sluggard
in the furnace jar.


All weekend I drove round town,
taking photos. Every shot stilled
a heart.

Tastee Treet, Sizzler
husks, dread Mobil chems.

The night before I left,
cops came to the door,

my cameras,
wiped the record witless. Wished me well.


James Miller is a native of Houston, though he has spent time in the American Midwest, Europe, China, South America, and India. He has published poetry in Riversedge, the Houston Poetry Fest 2016, Sweet Tree Review, Lullwater Review, Burnt Pine, Boston Accent, Plainsongs, Cold Mountain Review, The Tishman Review, The Maine Review, Bird’s Thumb, Straight Forward Poetry, Gyroscope, 2River (forthcoming), After the Pause (forthcoming), Main Street Rag (forthcoming), and Lunch Ticket.