My wife thinks the crows
are talking to her
with their midnight beaks
and ragged feathers
and maybe she sees the sky through their eyes
the reef of dark storm cloud
off to the west, the flutter
of deep laughter under her breast
and under their bandaged squawks

and I’m thankful for the privilege
of memory and thought
for I still wear the scar on my hand
from setting steel steps
onto the trailers
my first week in Dead Horse
near Prudhoe Bay
back when we still had an Arctic,
where a can of soda
left outside for three minutes
would freeze into solid ice:

ice in the air, ice in the sky,
ice in our nostrils and under our eyes:
who knew some day we would miss it?
Ice-tears and ice-spit
ice-piss and ice-shit
so cold you couldn’t smell,
glare-ice like the front yard of hell

and the first living creature a raven
perched on the trash burner
with a voice like bent tin
under the delicate rose-colored sun
which never lifted above the horizon
circling all day like a dim lamp
along the gray edge of heaven.

Joseph Millar’s first collection of poems, Overtime, was a finalist for the 2001 Oregon Book Award. His second collection, Fortune, appeared in 2007, followed by a third, Blue Rust, in 2012. Kingdom was released in early 2017, and his latest collection, Dark Harvest, New & Selected Poems, was released in 2021.

He has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in such magazines as DoubleTake, TriQuarterly, The Southern Review, APR, and Ploughshares. Millar teaches in Pacific University’s low-residency MFA Program and in North Carolina State’s MFA Program in Creative Writing.