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[with 3 poems by Miles A. Coon]

to become the very brink you live on . . . Miles Coon

The other day I was trying to fix my Dad’s Life Alert system while the rest of the family ate lunch fifteen feet away. I couldn’t figure out why the damn lights kept flashing. While I was cussing the instruction booklet – there’s such a thing as being written too simply – I overheard Dad tell my daughter, “Bill sure does a lot for us.”

Haven’t I always been the good boy? May I confess that all my life I’ve chosen to do things that would confirm my good boy status? Around 20 years ago I wrote a sonnet titled, Good Boy Turns 50; the closing couplet reads, So let’s give him what he needs in the next fifty / if he ever discovers what that might be. Was I trying to slip in a bit of tension there, as if maybe I don’t always like myself for striving always to be the person everyone likes?

Someday I’ll write a poem about being twenty and driving the interstate back to college from Pittsburgh with my friend John in the big bashed up Mercury I’d inherited from Granddaddy. One of the near-bald tires blew, and as we rolled to a stop on the shoulder we looked at each other and started to sweat. In the trunk, on top of the spare, was a big trash bag of illegal vegetation John had plucked up, roots and all, from where he’d been growing it out back of his parents’ estate while they were in Paris or Tokyo or some such. We tried to look purposeful, puttering around the trunk until the traffic thinned, then threw the bag up into the weeds (no pun, please), jacked up the car, wrenched on the spare, and retrieved John’s harvest. No lights & sirens. Back at school in central Ohio after dark, I unloaded John behind his dorm. End of story. Good boy escapes to be good another day.

Someday I’ll write a poem about that.

Not today.

❦ ❦ ❦

The Beginning

Before I had a self, I grew
in the half-dark, half-light world
I knew belonged to me.

Two disappointing gods
shaped me. Before I had
a self, I was a topiary.

Birds were everywhere
in me, singing, while I
stood mute.

One day, the gods split
this world in two.
Before I had a self,

I was taken by each of them
to the great sea of disillusionment,
thrown in from separate shores.

My first-self emerged from the sea,
my body soaked in brine.
I could taste my own salts.

To be washed clean,
to be naked and alone,
to become the very brink you live on

is to bury your gods,
as your heirs will bury you.
This is genesis, where we begin.

Miles A. Coon
from The Quotient of My Self Divided by Myself, © 2022, Press 53, Winston-Salem NC.

❦ ❦ ❦

As I reached the close of each poem in The Quotient of My Self Divided by Myself, I paused, loosed held breath, then returned to the beginning to read it again. Not because the poems are difficult to understand. The poems are so full of understanding I couldn’t hold it all in a single reading. The language is as beautiful and fresh as the stories are piercing and full of hurt, yet the speaker heals in the telling and heals us. Observer, actor, perpetrator – innocent, confused, divine – Miles Coon enters himself through doors he opens as if for the first time and enters us as if we are knowing another person for the first time.

I am still learning about myself from this book. Perhaps that is its theme, that we may explore our selves all our lives and never reach the end of our journey. How heartbreaking and how full of joy the final line of the final poem: How little of this world I know.

[Note: Miles died on May 21, 2022, just days before the publication by Press 53 of his first book-length collection of poems.]

❦ ❦ ❦

Where I Was Going

I.
Where was I going under the weight
of my bookbag, case law, and statutes? Not to the
Harvard Café for Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes.
Not to the cinderblock dorms, their dimly lit corridors
of thought. Not home. Where was I going so full of
argument and words?

II.
I joined the cynical and jaded. My father hired me.

Not to work next to illegal aliens in the plastics factory.
Not to load forty-two-foot trailer trucks with
one hundred forty thousand garment hangers, stacked
in cases, side-by-side, front-to-back, floor-to-
ceiling, every cubic inch packed tight.

Not to the boss’s office where the Harvard Law degree
vanished into uh-oh, here comes the boss’s son.
Not to the trade shows at the Hotel New Yorker
where I licked the soles of jobbers, plied them
with booze.

III.
Where was I going? To the fertility expert with my semen
in a jar? Never to Little League with my son. Never
to go ice-skating with my daughter. Where was I going?

Not three times a week to Dr. Bernie, self-indulgent,
taking a magnifying glass to my problems. He said
I had it wrong. We were removing the magnifying glass.

IV.
Where was I going, going to
my father’s funeral, my mother’s grave. I was going
to the closing when I sold the business. I was going
to my daughter’s wedding, to the firehouse where my son
showed me his gear and the enormous truck
he drove to Ground Zero.

Where was I going? Not to grow fables of my own
making: I was just going to my wife’s studio
to help support her art, I was going to write a poem for her,
always my best reader.

Miles A. Coon
from The Quotient of My Self Divided by Myself, © 2022, Press 53, Winston-Salem NC.

❦ ❦ ❦

Against a Wall

Sometimes, when the moon
is courted by wolves,
and the bats shake themselves out,

I’ll move through the mouth
of the cave like a breath,
press against the windowpane,

and there inside the house
a frail young boy stands stiff
against a wall. His father measures him.

His mother, tanned, hair bleach-blonde,
shines the sterling silver tray,
then serves a fifth of Haig & Haig

in the cut crystal drinking glass.
The boy’s dismissed
the minute his father takes a sip.

I’ve pressed my ear
to the landscaped ground
and heard the panic in his retreat

on tiptoe, in stocking feet.
His only trace, his father’s mark,
indelible on the measuring wall.

Though I cannot leave
the dark until it’s dark,
I do survive.

Here, inside the cave,
bats hang
harmless as handkerchiefs.

I can hear my tardy rebel stir
from years of sleep,
rising up, stretching his limbs,

hungering for light.
Soon, I will follow him out,
marking the walls as I go.

Miles A. Coon
from The Quotient of My Self Divided by Myself, © 2022, Press 53, Winston-Salem NC.

❦ ❦ ❦

It takes the lake to make a line of moonlight . . . Miles A. Coon, from Shadow Life

 

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