Hammered Poem

J.A. Miller



Spring has come, and

the neighbor’s vines are choking

your azaleas.  The nails

that hold the fence awake—


you’re taking a hammer

to their heads, again.


There have been

too many songs today,

pulsing in the air, nursing

the oak’s damp roots.


The previous tenant left

a florid cross, rusted ironwork


like pursed lips, leaning

against the trunk.  Prop it up

again when the storms send it

seeking in the grass. Never


ask what it found





This morning you have found a nail driven deep

into the black rubber of your sandal, the left.


You pry the nail loose with a knife swarmed

with sickness, though you’ve scrubbed

and soaked its dull ridges.


But the nail has left a gash across the sandal’s

skin. A scabby stain crowds round,


like summer roaches feasting after a fever rain.

There is no seeing the nail entire, no holding it

in your mind as a finished thing.


You feel the weight of a body

sagging in your arms. 


J. A. Miller is a native of the Houston area, though he has spent time in the Midwest pursuing advanced degrees in English, and has traveled in Europe, China and India. In addition to his academic interests (post-colonial fiction, international cinema, and early 20th century modernism), he fills his kitchen with the tang of fenugreek and fennel, and the deep patience of the well-wrought curry that inspires his better poems.