Poetry Thursday: At the Library, Jesse Millner

For my first Poetry Thursday venture, which was to take a field trip and explore through books of poetry in a library or bookstore, I went to my university library and wandered through the PS 3500 and PS 3600 sections, culling through Elizabeth Bishop, Terrance Hayes, and Muriel Rukeyser. But I stopped at a very slim volume.

Oh, before going on, I hope the other Poetry Thursday contributors either bought or checked out the books of poetry, which I think might be the real goal behind this week's assignment.

I unconditionally recommend Jesse Millner's wonderful chapbook, The Drowned Boys, published by March Street Press. Below are the final two sections of his title poem, a long, breezy, associative narrative/meditation, and this exerpt alone does not do the work justice.

from "The Drowned Boys," by Jesse Millner:

The lost shoe woman takes the 151 bus
north on Lake Shore Drive.
On the ride home, she composes a grocery list: deodorant,
granola bars, tofu hot dogs, cat food;
and doesn’t notice the long dream of water to the east
or Lincoln Park to the west.

And all around her the world is quickening.
The statue of Phil Sheridan at Diversey
disappears into dusk and lights come
on in the big apartment buildings
along the eastern edge of the green space
that stretches for miles.

Soon the moon will rise from the waters,
fat and full but shrinking with altitude.

I can tell you now that I’m grateful for my new religion
of moonlight confessions and communion
with yellow cheese.

I take in la luna and I am transubstantiated
from drinking man to spirit.

I confess my sins, of which there are multitudes.


Is anyone still listening?

Whitman’s sleep is a moonlit field
near Des Moines.
His poem has become the earth
and his lines are as long
as geologic time.

The lost shoe woman sleeps with her cat
in a canopy bed next to an open window
where white curtains catch the east wind
off the lake and moonlight gleams
on the just-varnished oak floors.
She no longer dreams of a red Converse all-star.

And the drowned boys whisper on humid river nights.
Their muted voices become
the living current.


I have another trip to make, it turns out to track down another new poet...these words by Jesse Millner are jarring and surreal. I feel like I'm ambling along through someone else's dream. The "all around her the world is quickening" and "Whitman's sleep is a moonlit field near Des Moines" and "their muted voices become the living current". Thank you(!) for this recommendation...
Dana said…
Transubstantiated, eh? That's a hard word to pull off in a poem, but judging from the excerpt ~ I'd have to see the entire poem to say for sure ~ I think it works.

Thanks for sharing this excerpt and talking about your excursion to the library.
Found you here from Poetry Thursday; interesting poem. Is Whitman really sleeping in a field near Des Moines... a fascinating thought
vicci said…
Oh...I really love....
I take in La luna and I am transubstantiated.
What a wonderful line....I liked the whole entire poem. Thanks for posting!
liz elayne said…
long ago i used to take the 151 bus to and from work every single day. this excerpt put me right back there but with a different view. thank you for sharing this and introducing me to this poet.

(and you are right - i was hopeful that people might begin to build their own library or support the one in their town...being so moved by the words they would find that they would have to take them home.)
Good one!
bb said…
Thanks for posting this, it is long and rambling yet manages to maintain a focus through themes of loss, dreams, bodies of water and transformation.
I've been working in quite closed forms recently. This makes me yearn to break out a little from their safety.

Good to hear about your library visit too. I checked out eight volumes, which I've been carrying around, shuffling like cards between them. There is an advantage to having no more room on my bookshelves- it makes me carry new volumes about my person.

And thanks for commenting today, and leading me back here!
Tammy said…
I wish I could do field trips, but I'm finding so many treats right here in "Poetry Thursday."

Thanks for sharing :)
Bogart said…
Life passes by and we don't see it anymore. I rode this train and enjoyed it. Thank you.
Anonymous said…
Nice! Where you get this guestbook? I want the same script.. Awesome content. thankyou.