by Michael Milburn


He’s quick to find things
wrong about himself,
or makes them up
to feed his insecurity,

sees flaws in people
they seem not to see,
and wonders if a set
like that exists in him.

He wants to know those too,
or only those.
He rarely minds himself
except as others do.

For her, it’s virtues rather than flaws,
but that’s a different kind of self,
a different kind of consciousness,
a happier marriage between the two.


Do I credit beauty
for what is plainly

divinity out of not
wanting to believe,

or is it how I come
to love God, whom

for all my refusal to
admit his existence

I have granted both
a home and a name?


the equivalent of that
electric burning smell
that comes of running
the shredder too hard
wafts off me as I try to
present an impassive

it steps out beside me
with shaved skull and
popping neck tendons,
ready to brawl on my
(the peaceable brains
of the organization’s)


When the detritus of feeling clears away,
the recriminations and second thoughts

weighing good company
versus good chemistry,

it comes down
to two women,

the one who wanted me
and the one who didn’t, 

citing what I said or did
or my respect or affection

or passion or mystery
or wit or availability

or restlessness or readiness
or lack thereof, thereof and thereof.

And being wanted unnerved me
just as much as being unwanted

when my same qualities
did and did not appeal,

virtues and vacancies
equally misconstrued.

So make a mental note,
Ms. Interested, Ms. Not,

that whatever I base my judgment of you on
may also be an error of just that.


If an ideal state of intimacy exists,
it would seem that the long married inhabit it,
though anyone as chipped away at by marriage as I am
wonders about that. 

I see intimacy as an active, variable thing,
ebbing and flowing along with sex and ambition,
up if the former is incredible,
down if want turns to wanting—

not wanting sex, but success, happiness, more. 
To me marriage felt like navigating a raging rapids,
best to accept that neither her peaks of ardor
nor lows of disappointment would last.

Unfettered and unconditional:
I hoped marriage would be both,
but it didn’t turn out that way
so I decided it entails getting to know another too well

to keep admiring him or her a lot.
Diminishing returns. I ought to do interviews,
discard my own experience as corrupt data. 
I still see love as a transient thing, not to be relied on,

unless longevity equals intimacy,
a premise that half consoles and half,
if one aspires to the latter as a scorching way to feel,
doesn’t make sense.

About the Author:

Michael Milburn

Michael Milburn teaches high school English in New Haven, CT. His book of essays, Odd Man In, was published by Midlist Press in 2005, and his most recent book of poems is Carpe Something (Word Press 2012).