William Miller, “Guilt”

William Miller’s eighth collection of poetry, Lee Circle, was published by Shanti Arts Press in Maine in 2019. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Penn Review, the Southern Review, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner. He lives and writes in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

orange line


It was him, the neighbor kid—
he picked up the wounded bird,
threw it into the sky.

The bird fell down harder
the second time, thrown from
my hands, a blackbird

with wet feathers, a frightened
black eye. He fell to the sidewalk
and flapped for two boys’

sick pleasure. That was nature
in our cold suburb, our parents
cruel to us, each other.

His house was noisy, mine filled
with quiet hate like poison
from a gas stove.

It felt good to be cruel,
mock and maim something
weaker than myself…

but only for a few seconds,
frozen in that bird’s black eye.
The sky was indifferent,

flat, gray, like the floor
of a house where nothing
really lived, laughed or loved.

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