The Works of Jesse Millner

Jesse Millner’s work has appeared most recently in River Styx, Pearl, Atlanta Review, and Slant. He has published four poetry chapbooks, The Drowned Boys (March Street Press, 2005), On the Saturday After the Rapture (Main Street Rag, 2006), I Give You This Ghost, and Holy Numbers (Pudding House Publications, 2007, 2008.)  His first full-length poetry book, The Neighborhoods of My Past Sorrow, was released by Kitsune Books in March 2009. Jesse teaches writing courses at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida.


All Poems © Jesse Millner

All of Us and Every Thing


I’m old and leaning

toward Whitman’s exquisite voice,

can almost feel his rough whiskers on my cheek.

He whispers this world, this whirling, twirling dervish of stone,

water, vegetable, mineral, animal, mystery,

all of it is one. Lo, this earth is a swimming

creature, and the black heavens are its sea.

Lo, all of us and every thing, mammal,

obsidian, maize, tadpole,

are atoms in the greater body,

one piece of the singular whole.

When I breathe, the earth breathes,

and when I sleep,

I rest in the greater shade
of a dreaming planet.


In Praise of Small Gods


I’m all for leaving this world,

entering that bright space

of becoming like dew drops

on the morning buttercups

I planted last week before all the rain came.

Already they bloom yellow with

first light—6:30 a.m., that

magic time when the palms

and pines emerge from the darkness,

when light clings to the edges

of bougainvillea and philodendron,

when the marsh rabbit fights

with the hungry ravens for fallen

seeds from the bird feeder.


I remember the colors

of last night’s river,

the minor Mississippi

that flowed through my dreams,

how I bent down toward the current,

pulled tiny, glimmering fish

from the branch shadows.


And this morning I awoke at dawn

and knew the time by the texture

of that early light—still, grey,

but gathering meaning.


And then, a cup of coffee

on the back porch, stars still

spinning in the heavens, moisture

gleaming across the yard

like a fallen constellation.


I breathe in

these small gods, these

scents and ghosts and shadows

that rise in early morning,


and I swear I see Eden

burning just behind

the wall of palm

that shields us from the drainage

ditch, where a million mosquitoes

buzz like tiny angels.

I praise this morning,

I praise drainage ditch and mosquitoes,

I praise the tiny insect stings,

which argue for my own life,


yes, with each bite

my flesh tingles with meaning,

and with each brightening

moment, the world around me

comes into greater focus,


until it is finally Florida, a feast

of flowers, bugs and

the bright fields of this moment, when the dog’s

soft fur against my foot

argues for life

more than any priest,

more than any religion,

more than any supernatural

explaining of this sputtering, beautiful world

fired with the tangible meaning of root, stem, petal,

bone, feather, beak.