from the editors

current issue

past issues



Follow UCityReview on Twitter



Jane C. Miller

French Creek at Sunrise



Night Swim

French Creek at Sunrise

Outside the cabin where I’ve come alone,
a squirrel cracks a branch, a small bird pipes

now, now, now. You’re four,
at the ocean’s edge. In your left hand

a fragment of shell smooth or ridged
as wings flung back like chicken feed

my grandmother scattered, seed potatoes
my grandfather returned to dirt.

What we need, we hand down. I filled you

with sounds; the first word you read aloud,
letter by letter: Gulf on a gas station sign.

Silence, the gulf I wanted you to cross.

When you asked, What is how,
I couldn’t say. My head full of What

will become of you. What did I give but
drills and demands for high marks.               

Last summer at Cape Cod, I watched
you, a grown man, teach a boy

to skip shells—a meditation you taught
yourself. Your future clouded

as a bowl of sea glass. A crow ratchets
like a man tightening a screw in the sky.

Tell me you are happy.


Return to list of poems


Forget daisies, their blown-black centers,
petals like children picked off

in a game of duck duck goose. Forget
broken families, stick hands never

to reach each other; let children file out
hand-in-hand like paper chains. Give back

the dog his nose, his bone, the pet turtle
chewing lettuce in class. Keep all

the shooting stars on tests, the arms
of superheroes kissing their chests. Mark

everyone present. Forget
the empty chairs, the closets where

children hold their breath, cupped
hands around hearts made of ears.


Return to list of poems


A sun-raked morning, sand cool, tide low.
Gulls boomerang past the window.
Come with me, I say. You ask why
I hunt for shells when we have basketsful

back home. You roll over in bed. Nothing stays
the same; not love promised, or weather.

I follow the wrack line, the blanket fringe
of brown pods and broken fans,

air sharp with salt-sweat. I was
an invitation once, our bodies wrapped

around each other like seaweed, my thighs,
my curves making smiles. Explorer, kiss me

here, I said, and here. We ran naked into
surf’s shock, let salt wick our clothes dry.

I have left behind risk, become
the startled woman with her dog

we streaked past on the beach.
Do you recall that time we were rich

in shells—one day lightning whelks,
next day sand dollars, our children

nearby, your hand in mine. I didn’t think
I was chosen for loss, but who isn’t—

our parents gone, a daughter overseas,          
a son gaming away his loneliness.

And what of you I left grumbling in bed,
your back curved, face slack on the pillow.

I pass a stranded jellyfish, pick shells
I cannot name. When we watch Jeopardy,

I say Of course, after the right question.
Who’s going to take care of me, dad asked

as mother drifted into wordlessness. Am I already
less wife, more burden? More and more,

you fill in the blanks for me. At high tide where
I walk, waves swell, keels sway, fish flit and vanish.

Return to list of poems

Night Swim

The pool’s underwater light shines
like a moon. I frog the water, think of nothing
but what I want. Back home
my dog hangs his head over the sofa edge

like a gargoyle. A cool wind shivers my skin.
Dad, you can’t know how it felt to slide you,
heavy as bone-chipped sand, from a plastic bag
into dug earth. Your empty condo echoes.

Water licks at me insistent as a dog
wanting to be pet, and I submerge. Who’s to say            
death is the end of habits that make us
happy or misunderstood? In this smoky light, others

return. Doc, who always swam laps at night,
methodically crawls above me. The legs
of the morning ladies stalk the shallow end,
their too-big trophy rings sparkle like exit lights
on the floor. Out of breath, I hang on the pool’s rough edge.

In the dark community room, your best friends
Pete and Stew, Hawaiian shirts in tatters, Jack Daniels           
in hand; Marty brushes dirt from her collar bone
where she wore statement pins; Vince’s ponytail so long

now it’s a scarf. You are center stage, holding
your titanium knee and tibia like an MC. Alive,
you had no time for my what-ifs, my moodiness.

Life of the party, I want you back.                            
I want you at the window of 101-C calling down
to the pool ladies, their faces upturned
like sunflowers. I want your barrel-chested whinny,

your absent-minded singing, half-whistling I Love
Paris in the Springtime on repeat, your strong hand
stroking the gap between my pointer and thumb.

A timer turns off the pool light. The flagpole rope
clangs a curfew. Palms shir like forked tongues.                                    

Return to list of poems

Jane C. Miller has been published in numerous journals. She won first prize in Naugatuck River Review’s 11th narrative poetry contest and has received two state arts grants in poetry. She is co-author of Walking the Sunken Boards (Pond Road Press, 2019) and an editor of ൪uartet (

Return to list of poems

copyright 2010-2023 ucity review