KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 8: August 2017
Poem: 187 words [R]


by Joseph Millar
No one will tell me
where the horses have gone
who rested under the oak trees
especially the black one with mottled lips
who would hum to himself
when I stroked his chest-fur
nicked up by barb wire and covered
with flies, beneath which his huge
and sleepless heart
carried him into the summer,
his ghost now grazing the roadside
this night before the Florida Derby.

The pasture’s a canebrake of ancient kudzu
laid down and braided with rusted fence,
the road a wide strip of moonlit ashes
leading away from the barn
where my friend makes his sculptures
of clay and branched iron,
unchanged by time

though Jupiter hangs low overhead,
like us unable to escape the hours.
It’s two in the morning on the coast
of the moon but here it’s just midnight
and the sleepers open their arms
to the sound of 5,000 horses
driving the big train south from Monroe
dragging the long cars mile after mile,
its engineer like an aging king
watching the clock, one hand on the throttle,
the howl of the whistle under the stars,
trapped and burning.


—Previously published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2016-17 (Garden Oak Press, February 2017); republished here with author’s permission and kind assistance from Garden Oak Press

Joseph Millar
Issue 8, August 2017

is the author of several poetry collections, including Kingdom (2017), Blue Rust (2012), and Overtime (2001), all published by Carnegie-Mellon University Press; and Fortune (Eastern Washington University Press, 2007). Overtime was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Montalvo Arts Center, and Oregon Literary Arts. His poetry has won a Pushcart Prize, has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, and has appeared in such magazines as DoubleTake, TriQuarterly, The Southern Review, APR, and Ploughshares.

After growing up in western Pennsylvania, he attended Penn State and the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned an MA degree in poetry writing, and then spent 30 years in the San Francisco Bay area working at a variety of jobs, from telephone repairman to commercial fisherman. It would be two decades before he returned to writing poetry. Influenced by the work of poets Philip Levine and James Wright, Millar often draws upon working life as a means of engaging themes of class and family. Stark, clean, and unsparing, his accessible poems record the narratives of a life fully lived among fathers, sons, brothers, daughters, weddings, and divorce.

In 1997 he gave up his job as telephone installation foreman to try his hand at teaching. He has taught at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. Now living in North Carolina with his wife, poet Dorianne Laux, Millar teaches in North Carolina State University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing and in Pacific University’s low-residency MFA Program in California.

Author’s website:

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