On The Singing Inside by Michael Miller.
The delicious poetry in this book reminded me very much of the story of Benjamin Button. Benjamin, according to the lore was born old and became younger as the years progressed.
In the very first poem “After Tanglewood,” Michael refers to “Born in Beethoven’s Blood.” This poem made me start humming the Fifth Symphony as I read it. I felt that crisp beginning of the musical piece da da da da … da da da da… like something yet to come. And what does come is a wonderful journey of rejuvenation. “Immersed in the journey, / he was thrust forward.”
We begin with his series of poems called “Old Poet”
“He is now a soldier of diminishings,/ Each line a battle to defeat”and he feels he is losing the battle. possibly with age…his body deteriorating, his love life doing much the same as in “The Imperfection that has become his unkempt wife.” Next we find her “Moving naked across a wooden floor, / Paris is still an old woman/ with a twig broom.”
The relationship is stale, monotonous, the Paris passion is gone…it is a chore like sweeping the floor. “ As the present crumbles/ And the past gives permanence/ another meaning.”
There is no going back…things never stay the same…the life gets sucked out of a relationship and thus for the speaker the end appears on the horizon and it seems the fight has gone out of him. Certainly Dylan Thomas would shed a tear because this Old Poet seems to be going very gently “into that good night.” “Her face arises when he thinks of death.” “That singular image / before the lights go out.”
But even with the poet’s pessimistic mood the poems in this series take a turn. “Wrest the words, from the seed-splitting sun/Bearing the brightness of beginnings.” We get that vision of the poet writing himself back to the world…”the light has become his secondary muse.”…like Benjamin Button the old, old man being born to the light of the world…ready to grow young…ready to be reborn as life, which usually wears a human being down, imparts to him the fountain of youth.
The exquisite series of poems titled “The Singing Inside” show that turning for the speaker. That rejuvenation as he finds love anew. Maybe it is his “Marble Lover,” “The Ice Woman” thawed, reborn herself…but nevertheless these poems speak of love in mid-life and even of having a child at a late age—
“when you came into my empty life”
“a door opened inside me,/ And what was there,/ what was kept waiting,/ Walked out to you.”
“We touched, discovering each other’s / Unfamiliar body, undressing our desires/ with the slowness of shyness”
Lines so sensual yet done in beautifully subtle fashion…and “you were pregnant,/ Our six-week child/ still motionless, invisible.”
Much like Benjamin Button, maybe her pregnancy is symbolic of the rebirth of the heart, a heart that might come out of the womb old, wilted and hopeless but finds passion which like a pump pulses blood back into it. Life in reverse, love in reverse, rejuvenation—reincarnation? Name it what you will, but Michael Miller in his poetry gives us such clear vision of the ups and downs of life and aging and loving… he really gives those of us in our twilight years much hope that passion is still out there for us…as a matter of fact, he gives all of us that wonderful gift of “hope.” And through reading his work we can discover a newfound desire to look forward rather than backward. And many of us have that tendency to reflect so much we forget there is a future in front of us. “The wounds that had yet to heal” and given time, they will.
“I touch your second-hand blouse/ for the first time, unbuttoning/ the gray silk slowly, wondering/ What woman had worn it, / What man had opened it,” thus we open a new chapter in our lives…maybe with someone else who has been there, who has lost hope, and in each other we find ourselves “suprised with a new desire.”
This collection will touch your heart and maybe give those who need it that spark of romantic rebirth.
(author of “an Abstract Waltz”)