The Tower Journal

William Miller

The Tenants

She always wanted to live
in the Quarter, a balcony of her own.

She’d lived all her life in Metairie,
a suburb that might
have been in Kansas
or South Dakota.

So she took a bus, 20 minutes
to the city, a different century.

Drink in hand, she wandered,
through a maze
of oyster bars, shotgun houses.

Her parents told her not to move,
to meet and marry a nice man,
give them grandchildren.

But she got a job at a hotel
on Bourbon, made reservations.

And she found the perfect one-bedroom,
with a balcony, in a Creole
town house.

There was nothing like watching
the sun come up over the cathedral,
fill the street with light while she
drank her morning coffee.

But she had strange dreams,
a child laughing, running
In the carriageway …

One night she woke up and saw
a little girl in the doorway,
pigtails and petticoats …

The next day the little girl
frightened her again,
held her hand with an
icy invisible one.

Now, she was scared, certain
she wasn’t alone, wondered what
would happen next.

It soon did. She was in bed,
too anxious to sleep,
when the covers were pulled
back, a weight sank
the mattress beside her …

She stayed with her parents,
said a noisy saloon was keeping
her awake, that she needed
a few night’s rest.

But she faced a plain choice,
live in a burb where happiness
was measured by the distance
to Walmart.

or go back to a city that was
a mystery itself, drew her,
drew many to its
wrought-iron doors.

And she did go back, heard
nothing, saw nothing for days.

But she knew the girl would return,
that she’d see those pig tails,
feel that icy hand in hers.

There was room for both of them,
a woman in love with a view,
the laughing, little dead.

A Dream in Vietnam

Soldiers in tents read about
fast cars, faster motorcycles.

These new bikes were light,
built for speed, not cruising
to a road house.

And these bikes had their
own name: “chopper.”

When they rotated back
to the world, they had
to find something loud
and dangerous to replace
the firefights, napalm,
they’d grown used to.

They dreamed of open
desert roads, riding
beyond the law, the last
speed limit sign.

And they’d never look
back, even when
the war was over,
the war that made them.

Vets all, they were a gang
like they were in
the jungle, living for that
adrenaline high
when death was near.

Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose

It came on early,
before the school bus
stopped at our
front door.

Our dads left for
work. Our mothers
began the wash cycle,
sat down to smoke
a cigarette …

The Captain was like
all those harmless
old men we knew:

the mailman,
the milkman,
the smiling crossing guard.

Mr. Moose was an idiot,
silly antlers, toothy grin,
a loud, goofy laugh.

Both he and the Captain
tried to mess with
Bunny Rabbit’s mind,
trick him until
the ping pong balls fell.

Bunny Rabbit. He wore
glasses and never
said a word, a hero
for smart,
picked-on kids.

By the end of the show,
he had all the carrots

in his pocket. Mr. Moose
and the Captain
looked like simple fools.

And we’d see it all again
tomorrow, knowing
the balls would fall
and clatter once more …

A skeptic in black
glasses waited
for his moment,
the wrong question asked.

Never smiling, he was
our tall-eared rebel.

Copyright © 2014 William Miller

William MillerWilliam Miller is a widely-published poet, children's author and mystery novelist. His poems have appeared in many journals, including Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, The Southern Review and The African-American Review. He lives and writes in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

The Tower Journal
Fall/Winter 2014