Matt W. Miller

My Stripper

     
   

The last, or close to last,
low-lit purple mist strip club
I ever went to (with friends

who like low lit purple mist),
woke me up with a phone call
in the same breath of morning

in which I’d fallen, toppled,
asleep in the Vegas Hard Rock,
my brother passed out

next to me in our shared sheets.
When I flipped open
my flip top a sugar dipped

voice asked me to come
through on a Red Bull and vodka
promise to deliver pizza 

with her to her son
and his second grade class.
I talk too much at strip clubs.

I am not comfortable
with the premise so I ask
about hometowns, scars, kids,

and confuse everyone involved.
She and I talked two hours
while I bought dances

so she could get paid and even
though I told her not to dance
she wanted to dance.

Years later, I do not now remember
her name but I do still
stare at the mole by her lip.

Or was it by her left breast?
Beautiful and kind, curly black
hair, rich espresso skin,

she laughed at the jokes we made
of ourselves. I did not leave with her
that morning to pass out

slices, soda, then into her bed.
I regret the pizza. And the melt
of sugar when I said I wouldn’t.

     
         
 

Lessons

     
   

The thin guitarist with chickens
in a backyard pen breathes
over the steaming cup of green tea
toward his student, tells her finger
the pick as if upon a trigger, tells her
to strum not pluck or pull against
the strings. No, keep it smooth, he says,
in a voice all timbre of September.
She is anxious, her hands like hams
she thinks, as she cross picks chords,
moves up and down a D minor root.
Something like music leaks from her
beat up Bristol, swirls in the teacher’s
den between the bang on bad strings
and the creak of wooden chairs.
The thin guitarist nods, plays
along, not smiling, not frowning,
lost in listening to notes folded
together. She will never be great.
Hers will not be fingers the world
will bray about. Sill, one night far away
she will play in her kitchen, in some
city far away from backyard chickens.
Alone, she’ll strum a song for a man
or a woman. She will remember
for a moment the guitarist’s regard
for the notes she played well,
the ones she missed, the way winter
afternoons the two of them just sat,
a coffee table between them, and loved
that such terrible things as we, who
tear at each other for flesh, for fire,
can divine such beauty flat picking
metal guts to make them rhyme.

     
        return to poetry
 

Matt W. Millerwas born and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts. He is the author of the collections Club Icarus (University of North Texas), winner of the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize, and Cameo Diner (Loom Press). A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University, he has published work in Harvard ReviewSouthwest ReviewBriar Cliff ReviewSlateNotre Dame ReviewDrafthorseProfaneMemoriousThe Rumpus, and Third Coast, among other journals. He teaches English and coaches football at Phillips Exeter Academy, where he also directs the Writers' Workshop at PEA. He lives with his family in New Hampshire.