The Hum of Traffic

poetry from robert c. miller

Breaking Ice, Back Tomorrow

Through the gusting of the Lake

we climbed slow waterfalls of rock,

choosing the long way,

our hearts quivering and trembling to forget

the coldness of never-knowing

through childhood games and idle adventure,

only to circle back on ourselves

in search of the darkest corners, hidden

in lake-drenched stone.


Fishing for portraits of the puddles’

faceless faces, we clutched at sheets of ice,

barely able to peer through the blurred panes

we squinted through bubbles of trapped air

and started at our young faces,

warped and bent through the frozen water.

In shock we forget what we saw

and dropped the slats of ice

to rock, to shatter like glass.


After it we left, the ringing of the frozen

sheets breaking echoed in our ears and in bed,

we lay restless, as the ice left behind

silently melted and froze anew.

Asking us about what hides in puddled shadows

of eroding rock and fallen trees and freshwater spray.

To grasp a truth is holding memories

I cannot know after

breaking ice, back tomorrow.




How Can I be More Like the Sandhill Cranes

who were, like me, also born in the sandy counties

of central Wisconsin, but carry a piece of tundra beneath their wing.


Who move like they know the land

flying their annual pilgrimage for that privilege.


Caught with open wings we found them,

necks stretched outcurved back and forward


again, dignified and stark lines, now escaping, writing

we know precisely what we are doing here


across the horizon. These cranes attend to the business of living

elsewhere, but once a year follow cryptochromes


without the guilt of leaving home behind.

Hope is Dead

You heard it (or read it) here. Hope is dead. Or maybe it was never alive, but that’s a can of historical worms I’d just as soon not open. So let’s stick with hope now. When was the last time you remember someone using the word “hope” in conversation?

“I hope there are turkey burgers in the cafe today.”

“I hope I didn’t bomb that test.”

“I hope I don’t see my ex at the party tonight.”

To tell you the truth, remembering when I last heard someone use the word hope in the way that embodies the state of being it originally described is pretty hard, and chances are it was in a class. Ideals to Actions probably, which would make sense because that class was created and taught to instill and promote the idea of hope. In fact, most of the time I hear someone say “hope” in a sentence it has to do with things they don’t want to happen. The whole modern understanding and use of hope is bunked. Full of negative emotions and things we really ought not to be hoping for. Finally, to top it all off, the way “hope” is used it passively, longing for the ideal situation to float your way like a brainless jellyfish in the ocean. Can hope even be passive? Can we hope to think that hoping to think will be all we need to turn our dreams into reality? I really don’t think so.

I know what you’re thinking. No, I’m not a hopeless pessimist angry at “society” (and my parents, and the government, and the world for that matter). In fact, I just think that it’d be easier to get what hope gives you from something else. Resurrecting that word and its meaning from the grave seems too hard, and in the end I don’t like the way hoping for things seems to exclude the” hoper” of any responsibility to make their wishes come true. So what then? Active dreaming? Intentional future shaping? Maybe, but what I’m most interested in relates to a few of the points Steven S makes in his paper on Ecological Intelligence. All the points are wonderful and valid, but the core of my argument draws primarily on these 3 assumptions:

1.       To every problem there is a solution

2.       We can understand anything by breaking it down into its components’ parts

3.       The whole is no more than the sum of the parts.

A vast array of different sources, from philosophy to personal experience to thermodynamics proves that these assumptions are true. In them, I believe lies the solution to the death of hope. The belief that nothing is insurmountable or impossible to comprehend with the proper understanding, research, technology, practice, observation, etc. and that nothing is impossible to change. Armed with these assumptions we can be free to dream, dream big, and dream actively. I like to think of it as “Liberated Realism.” While I see hope as wishy-washy, passive, and often times negative in its direction, Liberated Realism brings people back to reality while assuring them of both humans’ ability to problem solve and the inevitable possibility for success, albeit sometimes after longer than anticipated (but who are we to anticipate to begin with). I’ll depart on that thought and leave you feeling empowered and optimistic, I’ve found it’s gotten me a lot farther than hoping ever has.

Here’s to the searchers

Mr. Kavanaugh / M. Kavanaugh

Mr. Kavanaugh / M. Kavanaugh (Photo credit: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives)

Some people do not have to search –
they find their niche early in life and rest there, seemingly contented and resigned.
They do not seem to ask much of life,
sometimes they do not seem to take it seriously.
At times I envy them,

but usually I do not understand them –
seldom do they understand me.

I am one of the searchers.
There are, I believe, millions of us.
We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life,
hoping to uncover its ultimate secret.
We continue to explore ourselves,
hoping to understand.

We like to walk along the beach –
we are drawn by the ocean,
taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty.
We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well.

Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter.
To share our sadness with the one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know unless it is to share our laughter.

We searchers are ambitious only for life itself,
for everything beautiful it can provide.
Most of all we want to love and be loved.
We want to live in a relationship that will not impede
our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls.

We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love.
We are wanderers, dreamers and lovers,
lonely souls who dare ask of life everything good and

– – James Kavanaugh

New poem I wrote about Lake Street, Minneapolis, and it’s long history, give it a look!

Through Lakes to the River

Once, before anybody really remembers

Lake Street was called a county highway—synonym

for horses, and the stench of horse dung

but  also the feeling of freedom and living on the edge of the city and the farms

were so close a plow driver with a busted hitch could holler and be heard

and the saddle shop’d send an errand boy running

and if the boys were busy, or the plow too far out of sight

the old farmer would just drive the whole team out back his favorite shop and get it worked out right there.

Holiday, in those days, meant double headers

where both towns would meet at Nicollet Park on Lake in the morning

and Lexington Park in St. Paul for the afternoon,

but nobody watches minor league baseball anymore

and no one remembers which team Willie Mays started for.

But before the smell of peau d’espange from…

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Crust of the Earth

Long ago someone went to work on this land.

Called out, kneading

the crust of the Earth.


Fistful by fistfulred hard folds

and faults. Heavenly loafs

risen in ovens of the epochs


tossed about in beautifully careless dunes

frozen in time.

The trouble they must have gone to,


mixing that dough and measuring

the coarse grain

shoreline by shoreline,


one rocky outcropping at a time.

They rolled out Superior coastline,

Boreal lakebed, Canadian Shield.


Hideouts with names like Artist’s Point.

Stunning recipes

spotted with lead, nickel, and zinc,borrowed


from the lake Superior

who took them from the Glacier

in a story long ago.


The lake floor gathers crumbs over time,

consuming the tales in endless waves

but the crust remains


stale and lasting, hard

in the hardness of the gale winds

and the bone-cold swells.


I’ve seen the bread, bits of it in my hand,

studied fragments of stories unearthed

from the belly of the lake, but what I’d give


to take a mouthful of the heel,

halfway swallowed to the water’s hungry gullet

chew till the wetness is taken from my mouth

Folded Apocrypha


while I lie to you

while we lie




over naked whiteness

lines imagined tight and hopeful

but never made real

and in the end

really untouchable


secrets sleeping

between skin-woven folds

and apologetic creases

of hasty thoughts

under love—

overtures to the ordinary

man-to-woman; or,

woman-to-woman; or,





to be eaten by sidewalk sweepers

or convicts or religious pupils

or simply good folks

stooped in service—

disposing of lost memories

left on a roadside; or,

a sidewalk; or, just beside to a trashcan;

or, beneath a park bench—

wet and shimmering with morning dew


All the same

they read


“I love you”


which means—I dream

of you; or,

I feed on you; or,

I write—

you; or, I need you;

or, I know your name


I never learned to write my own

New poem I posted on “Through Lakes to the River,” a project specific blog of mine. Check it out

Through Lakes to the River

In the City

we are all a corpse,

alone in cedar—


walled homes,

but nightly we dance and rave

in these cemeteries bursting


with light pollution

lens flare

litter and coffins



against each other at midnite—

in the City


we dig our own graves

and scamper

to nail ourselves in(out)


from the short blocks

and long alleys

beneath street lights coated


in grime, and skies

that will never be clear—

The City is hungry for more


yet always full

of life

given off by the dancing


corpses who came

because although you cannot see the stars

in the City,


the lights will never fade

and in the City

you are allowed to forget


death, and life multiplies

quicker than the piling of bodies.

In the City


something is bought

through all the lonely struggle

and starless nights, and…

View original post 79 more words

The Desert’s Bald Head

Echoing out from clumps of hair

so thin yet present,

last years autumn


the Desert’s bald head

domes out

rising from inherent wisdom


whose voice is caught gentle winds

between whistling rock and empty air

and that secret corner of stone


always chanting

you can learn something here


a life-story that came out

186 million years from the hot birth

in sticky underground pools

until the land finally pushed away

showing phaneritic, and plutonic and orthoclase feldspar


the faded cranium

grown over with liver spots

striking bright green or orange or even teal

clinging lichens

against the sandy-red pigmented hide


springs of vitality stored deep

treasures, lying under sandy oaths

and cached beneath boulders,

given away by the shamelessness of life



of waterways and washes

running their way

round the rune


now thickened from a lifetime’s marriage

with the sun


despite my immaturity

I make the adulterous advance

courting that skull

that throne, that cell

and feel wrong at coming late

but asking


walk on, licking my lips

in salted memory and longing

new piece I wrote after taking a particularly road killed dense bike ride down Lake Street, MN

Through Lakes to the River

to the public museum

of road kill,

where you can study


the sciences of animal

anatomy by bike;

or, come to understand


the taste of curdled acid

as the dead do—just before

they pass:


or, to see time

as it sees us,

to know what lies beyond


the flies—


most don’t


know or care

—carried in automobiles,

and I don’t care to blame them


for forgetting their history

and staying off

the streets—


for forgetting—

what their bodies are

made from;


and, what they’ll think

when they too taste

acid on their tongue

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