College Town

by Michael Miller

Michael Miller

In a city awake on tea and subtitles,
the freshman boys fight off sleep
to hear a bluesman sing at the corner club,
his foot tapping and hoarse voice wailing

about fleeing the river hounds; and all the faces
look warm and dry here, the Lost Boys of Sudan
sheltered behind glass and glowing
on the art-house cinema, the neon sign

of the conquistador blinking over the nightclub
with his rifle drawn (the children of the Aztecs
on the sidewalk below seeking wristbands cool
in their pressed silk collars) — here the bus shakes

to a stop every hour, the doors snapping open
and the couples pass (consummated)
through ocean breeze and the crash of the fountain
in search of a drink — the girls in mascara

who glint like fireflies in the yellow lamps,
the one who breaks from the line at the tavern
and ducks into the gallery, past
the corner magician and the swirling eyes

of new babies, stands wet by the glare
of the bootleggers brutal and handsome under
their shaded brims in a portrait
in the hall, the newspapers cheering New Deal

and the trays of Cabernet in back (a finger
polished red half sober texting
about free food, gallery show, what time
do u get off wk) — the kisses stolen

over floodlights and the donation box
overflowing by ten, the eyes of migrants
that lust from photographs, the cards telling stories
of when this town was dust, when everyone was hungry.

Last updated March 20, 2023