To see my genes encoded
would be an experience of terror.
I should be overcome by both
fear and awe. Doctors predict
we will all be mapped nothing hidden
forced to face Nature’s dirty secrets
face our Alzheimer’s our Parkinson’s
our Huntington’s our cancers
our MS our ALS our cardiac flaws.
Yet as for me I prefer to stumble on
into the end of my days
going blind like Milton
since I’m already halfway there
or like Keats looking out
a window onto the Spanish Steps
facing death with a wild surmise.
A lilac bush Blackburnian warbler
flitting through its leaves
hanging over Aunt Sarah’s grave
next to hers Aunt Emma’s.
Farther back along the hillside
lie other graves grandparents
great grandparents great aunts uncles
all peacefully arrayed.
A bolder flash of black and orange
an audacious oriole lights
in the cedar that shades
my grandparents’ graves and seems
to say to me What kept you?
Yes what kept you? a tanager
red and black echoes
from a nearby tree.
Well I tell them
it’s been a tough year
and I have had this dying business
taking all my time
but I am done with dying now
am here to revel in the colors
of the birds smell the pines
be with family
make myself at home.
R. H. Miller is emeritus professor of English at the University of Louisville, where he served as chair of the Department of English and the Division of Humanities. In addition to his scholarly efforts, he has published a memoir, Deaf Hearing Boy (Washington DC: Gallaudet UP, 2004), and a poetry chapbook, A Long Glance (Georgetown KY: Finishing Line P, 2010). He has also published poetry and fiction in approaches, Kentucky Poetry Review, jefferson review, Thinker, River City Review, Angler’s Journal, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Louisville Review, Pointing Dog Journal, Wind, Pegasus, Scripsit, COG Magazine (finalist), and Quiet Diamonds (finalist).