On Reading

a Poem by Ghalib

During the Pandemic

by Susan Cummins Miller

Tucson, Arizona

The world of infinite possibilities contracts 

during “voluntary” confinement. Yet 

even the smallest prison cell 

contains enough space 

for a single 

step.

The Entropy of Water: 

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Perambulating

on the whispering, saltating sand 

between wave and stabilized dune, negotiating 


dipping strata, weedy estuary, an overgrown trail. 

Grateful to be haunted 

by the waxing moon as I settle 


on a Monterey cypress branch spanning 

a tributary, knees wrapped around

water-worn knobs, exhausted legs quivering 


like aspen leaves. Sharing the pause

with two robins squabbling over a worm. 

Transfixed by seeds, mosses, twigs and leaves 


drifting by: I can’t explain why

I feel rooted to this earth-joining-sky 

place, to the entropy of water


in babbling rivulets that leak, downstream,

into lagoon and sea. Searching 

for forgiveness for not doing enough. 


Finding a forgotten hunger for the vanished time 

when we granted clemency to things 

without speech. It is a hunger to remember,


to believe a time will come again

when we can drink from streams and rivers,

as we used to, or jump off trestle bridges, twirling 


in air before plunging into pristine lakes, 

as we used to—a time when we can laugh as we play 

dimly remembered dare-games.

Former field geologist and college instructor Susan Cummins Miller (www.susancumminsmiller.com) compiled and edited A Sweet, Separate Intimacy: Women Writers of the American Frontier, 1800-1922, and writes the Frankie MacFarlane, Geologist, mysteries. Her award-winning poems, short fiction, and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.