*Featured Poet: Michael Milburn



There is a point
to which we can
or will take things
and no further,
and decide then
whether the pushback
is genuine or
my friend coaxed
into cohabitation,
then marriage,
then fatherhood,
now scanning for
the next threshold.


At the exhibit
on Franklin’s
lost expedition
to the Arctic,
a glass cabinet
shows cut marks
on human bones,
the acts of men
alive at the edge
of the known world,
and the bodies
made meals of,
made salvation
and survival of,
another assault,
another advance,
a fallen frontier.


I fear for them
holding up a planet of attitude
on bones,

girl throngs and boy throngs
with poultry arms
and birthmarked skin,

cakey mascara
and frail moustaches,
sliding their hands along brass.

Some year
from a position
of true power or true failure

they’ll look back on this scene
leached of ferocity,
meaning dignity,

which is the only quality
separating them from us,
their ferocity.


They lie frozen now,
forever at the moment

of my, always my,
giving up on them,

and at this distance
it’s easy to identify my injuries

and think them through
to the point of being imaginary.

If only this was what it
took to bring them back,

but the cost of powering down
is the risk of powering up again.

Nothing, not even love,
resumes as readily as it rolls on.

Poet’s Statement:

On “Terra Incognita”:

I like sectioned poems for the way they propose a connection between two topics or themes that the poet might not want or be able to make explicit. “Terra Incognita” started out as ideas for two separate poems: the first about a friend who, after dragging his feet into multiple life changes, found himself delighted with his life and eager for the next change; and the second about an exhibit on John Franklin’s lost voyage and attempts to recover his ships and the remains of his crew.

I don’t equate Franklin’s starving crew, driven to cannibalism, with my reluctant friend, but do see a parallel: both forced into inconceivable behavior and ultimately redeemed by it.

On “Kids in the Mall”:

As a middle and high school teacher, I’m always impressed by the contrast between how confident and mature kids of this age can appear in attitude, and how frail and unformed they can look physically, and how these effects might flip in adulthood.

On “Friendships: An Elegy”:

This poem arose out of regret at too many friendships squandered through neglect or perceived slights, and my wondering how one in particular might be revived, or whether its long dormancy made this impossible. I believe in the poem’s last two lines, but also that this shouldn’t be a bar to reconciliation, or at least an attempt at reconciliation.

Michael Miburn teaches English in New Haven, CT. He is the author of three books of poems, the most recent being Carpe Something, from Word Press in 2012, and one book of essays.