Spring 2024

A Place Unfit

By Pete Miller

A retch of old corn cobs, drains
clogged with guilt ripped
out in fistfuls
of crime-stained hair,
even here,
along the furthest edge’s
furthest uncertainties,
he is made to sleep
beside the factory-clouded creek,
the hawk-dropped,
raccoon ravaged
like some doubly unwanted
leavings of a raided Dumpster,
but offering, still, within her, a space
to shelter if he’s willing
to shed more dignity,
to shrink
the last possibilities away,
to crawl inside and hold his breath
against night’s
of someone, something, coming born
from some even stranger place’s
mind, from that brown creek’s
even worse parents than his own—
Daddy the smokestack,
Mother the skin-stripping vat,
the border’s
hardening wax.


Warm grandmother
kitchen small boy beneath the table

a cozy stable for a little brown
dog gorging on

lumpy porridge and fatty scraps
until he’s grown into a pony

who eats the meadow and all
the barbed wire until

it swells into a tank
killing faceless foes until it hates

killing gets tatted
with jagged-

eyed skulls spills this
long beard

that tangles up the mud-
crusted track so

it stalls out
in the warm rain

shrinks into a simple

brown-bearded saint
roadside who

blesses martyrs
limping past but

all those barbed hooks

of his own obligation’s
punctured flesh

heart pulled long
until bursting a fountain

soaking a battered
old staggering

brown dog to sprawl
boneless across

the legs of the saint
now slumped against

a kitchen wall’s
blasted remains as

he presses to his ear
in prayer an empty

bottle to receive
forgiveness from both

the scratched-up label’s
brown pony’s long face

with grandmother’s tears

and those pieces
of himself scattered

beneath a table
burning on the other side.

Pete Miller is the author of the chapbook Born Soap (H_NGM_N). A graduate of Arizona State University’s MFA program, he lives with his wife and daughters in Omaha, Nebraska where he works in homeless services. He co-edits the online poetry journal A Dozen Nothing.

Spring 2024