Kung Fu

A poem by Joseph Millar

Joseph Millar
  • Joseph Millar
  • The children sit quietly on the grass,
  • having untied the bell from the cat’s collar
  • so he can stalk the night moth
  • jagging past us in the dark,
  • and I’m trying not to think
  • about the blue walls at the Detox Center
  • where I left their mother this morning,
  • shivering and clutching
  • the bestseller about vampires,
  • a broken suitcase at her feet.
  • I’m sitting in the doorway
  • watching the night drift into the yard,
  • the low voice of the news channel
  • running like water behind me.
  • Overhead the pine cones have cracked
  • partly open and the hooked branches
  • rake the late breeze like a claw.
  • The youngest kneels on his skateboard,
  • looks up at me and says
  • he wants to learn Kung Fu
  • before school starts next month,
  • to wear black and carry
  • its invisible weapons in secret,
  • moving softly through the fifth grade
  • like a spy.

In 1997 Joseph Millar gave up his job as a telephone installation foreman and moved to Western Oregon. A decade later he and his wife, the poet Dorianne Laux, moved to North Carolina. Millar’s first two collections are Overtime and Fortune, both from Eastern Washington University Press. A third collection, Blue Rust, will be published this year by Carnegie-Mellon Press. He teaches in Pacific University’s low residency MFA program as well as at various workshops around the United States. “Kung Fu” is from his collection Overtime and is reprinted by permission. The author’s photo is by Mike Selker.

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this brought me to tears...but with a smile sliding over my mouth too

reverberating in my mind is "what a nice man"

Every very rare once in a while I get to read a poem like this among all the poems I read, looking for that one in a million. This poem is so outstanding and perfect. Joseph Millar should never stop writing poetry. This poem is a wonderful experience for this reader. Thanks, Joseph.

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