Poems by Michael Milburn

Alternate Mastery

What evolved in this strategy...was for one party
to completely yield to the will of the other...
a mental withdrawal.

                    from INSEPARABLE, a biography
                    of the original Siamese Twins

Each would shut off
at the other’s house,
silent, staring, lying limp,
even basking in the break

from marital, parental acts
the on-one was performing,
but far from passive
when you factor all

the overhearing, glimpses,
irrepressible judgments in,
enough to make
the master seem the less

participatory of the two,
until awareness of himself
through his brother’s eyes
starts him second-guessing too.

Dread—A Research Project

Googling it was neither
my first resort nor my last.
I just wondered
how terminal or treatable
the internet thought it was.

I didn’t read far—
a couple of pleas,
a diagnosis
phrased to sound
as impersonal as a rash.

The site names
made me glad I’d come—

like bands
auditioning for the wedding
of despondency and hope.


It comes down to how we
cultivate ourselves versus

how we cultivate ourselves
in the eyes of other people,

making us conscious both
of being good and of how

being good affects others,
so that one’s decision not

to pocket a fork in a diner,
though hardly a moral act,

upholds a waitress’s pride
in whom she lives among.

If I were to found a religion,
its grounds would be these.

Michael Milburn’s most recent book of poems is Carpe Something (Word Press, 2012). His book of essays, Odd Man In, won the First Series Award from Midlist Press in 2005. In addition to his past work in Mudlark, he currently has poems in Slant, Coe Review and Gargoyle, and an essay on Philip Larkin forthcoming in Confrontation. He teaches high school English in New Haven, CT.

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