THE ARGUMENT by Edward Miller

During the waxing of the sturgeon moon

the bay stretches and contracts

with ever-increasing drama.

Last night I could swear

a spotlight atop the seabed illuminated the sky.

Checking my bank account online this morning

forced me to tally all the bills still to pay.

Later I surrendered to the vista.

When I rounded the bend on the beach

a colony of seals ignored me.

Surely there is value

in hearing a pinniped bark

with a sense of entitlement

that is neither nouveau nor ancestral.

Back home,

the age-related changes to my skin

made me crave Klonopin.

I yearned for the immaculate,

scrubbed all surfaces,

hid the clutter,

and arranged wildflowers in curated vases.


But arriving means your departure is inevitable.


And when you are here

every utterance churns up an issue

that then must be resolved

(when you say this, I feel that…).

O strike me dead now,

while I teeter on the edge

of giggling ceaselessly

at the inanity of relationships.

Must I confess to my own imprudence?

Must I alternate between strategic forgetting

and deliberate forgiving?

Past some dusty crossroad,

one’s own personality becomes a penitentiary.



do not have “a relationship talk” in this zip code.

Best to transfer all discord

onto decisions about dinner.

Study the patterns:

the contours of the wiggly dune,

the trajectory of the fatso seagull,

the tracks the jeep’s tire leaves in the sand.

The big picture is redundant pointillism.

I might argue with you now…

but when you leave,

I will crave your close-up

and yearn for your comical whine.


Surely the bobbing head of a seal

in the whitecaps matters more

than any utterance

calculated to explain my behavior.

The retreat to low tide

leaves behind sea lettuce,

mermaid’s hair,

and yes, horseshoe crabs—

confirmation of a crime of indulgence

cheered on by the swell of the moon.

Coupled with the wind

these events will accumulate

into something like a dune,

a patina of repose,

but also a mistrust fund

consisting of assets from inevitable nor’easters.

This makeshift cliff is ready to collapse;

the sea will reclaim its property.

If poems are also evidentiary,

why have I failed to convince?

I still yearn for the immaculate.

I’d rather be fanciful than obvious

though I’m not sure

I can afford it right now.

At the end of the day,

gesture tickles words into relevance.

And the mute deer ticks

have clearly made their point.

I have driftwood to collect

and loans to pay back.

If you go,

you miss the blooming of the coneflowers.

Edward D. Miller was born in 1960 and lives in the East Village of New York. He works as a professor at the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

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