In Order to Pray for History as It Happens, or After
Those prayers require of you discipline:
researching them laboriously—paper,
papyrus, parchment, stone, voices—
with footnotes and appendices.
You need too
many languages, too
many tongues speaking,
clicking, tsking, curling and uncurling while
burning like an angel’s skin.
You will mis-read “angle” and for years
thereafter, practice every angle
in which the human body can kneel,
every angle the neck can make above clasped hands
or racks of candles, burn yourself over
and over searching for the correct position
for match above wick.
Like all angels the Angel of History has no heart.
Unlike the others, it has also no ears,
no voice, no heat, no chill.
It is its own siege, its own pyre, its own winter. You
must be invasion. You must beg it
not to spread its crow’s wings
over the future again. I will write for you
the only answer it knows:
There is no Angel of the Future.
The King’s Breakfast
The next morning forked its royal blue yolk into his eyes.
He wrote himself reminders, lists, words to be unsaid, on his plate,
inked them on his hand (blueberry jam, or incisions),
quilled decisions into the table’s grain,
and when the wind ran across the room trailing her
silks and threats through the whole of his house…
Reminders flared and sparked and
But the dog remembered,
circled the memory seven times (it’s always seven times)
and fell to sleep beneath the table
dreaming chickens, also royal blue.
The dog, or possibly the chickens,
ate the man who wrote yolk notes
on the bottom of their water dish.
When I Make Things Turn Themselves Upside-Down
Poplars carve the roads from skies.
Satin pleats itself graciously into coffins.
Guards beneath “Arbeit Macht Frei” dissolve where they stood.
My fingers become threaded needles.
I take infants from the hands of German guards who’ve climbed
into the freight cars to toss the dead ones out, who’ve torn them.
I make them whole again, embroidering them together awake
in sprays of flowers made of threads unwound from
small birds’ nests. I cut the threads, they breathe
and have no memories of their mothers’ pounding hearts.
And though they’re scarred, my breasts fill up and richly
feed infant after infant, every wounded one.
I feed on ashes, a few potatoes, thin soup,
the pictures in my heart, and still the milk is good.
All the babies taken from their mothers,
I can repair and feed. They never cry and
go from me to haven-arms and sing, each one, before they speak.
Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in The Antioch Review, Massachusetts Review, and Spillway. She teaches at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008), Alphabet Year (Wipf & Stock, 2017), and The Slow Salute (Lithic Press Chapbook Competition Winner, 2018).