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E. Ethelbert Miller

About Poet
Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist and poet born in New York City. Miller is the author of several collections of poems and "arguably the most influential person in Washington's vast and vibrant African American arts community," according to The Washington Post. His last book How We Sleep On The Nights We Don't Make Love (2004), was an Independent Publisher Award Finalist. In 2003 his memoir. Fathering Words: The Making of an African American Writer (2000), was selected by DC We Read for its One Book, One City program sponsored by the D.C. Public Libraries. Mr. Miller is a board member of The Writer's Center and editor of Poet Lore.

The Hooker Never Votes

Politics is a lonely horn
and sometimes I need a woman's
hand to make the pain go away.

Everybody wants something.
But what do I need?
What do I want?

I love the power of flesh
even if it comes with a price.
I'm a politician not a promise.


Water Song

Maybe we should eat our Lester Young.

The rivers around New York are filled
with the ancestors of sick fish I flushed
down the toilet when I was small.

Nothing swims upstream anymore,
there are too many musicians and hookers.

Fools keep being seduced by the sounds of war.
Fuck Peace!

Every woman has a tattoo above her butt and pond.
Even when Sarah Vaughn wasn't naked she could sing.

The war in Vietnam was going on around the time
I saw Jimi Hendrix with a gun in his hand.

After my first piano lesson I wanted to be Cecil Taylor.
My father said I looked more like Art Tatum then he did.

I made love to jazz after school without the safety of an ocean.
I was just learning how to swim.

One day they fished Albert Ayler
out of the river without his horn.

It was the first time I heard silence
and could imitate it.


2 Shorts and a Smoke


Show me your hands
if you're not Art Tatum

Music keeps sitting
by my window

Somedays I just want jazz
to place her tongue in my ear


New York City

Vietnam War

I bump into Paul
Simon without Garfunkel

The rest
is history


Sarah Vaughn is a sweetheart
I'm too young to go steady

All the women I know
have the blues

I'm just a colored
man in love


E. Ethelbert Miller
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