Miles Varana – three poems

The Gameboard at Midday

As dawn breaks, long shadows fall
over downtown blocks, covering everything.
Businessmen and businesswomen, bums,
flea markets, tow trucks, koi ponds, everything.

It is a huge game of checkers, played by trembling
hands in a nearby park, everything zigzagging, everyone
jumping over one another in a mad rush
to survive the next hour, row to row, all
uncrowned but not forgotten in the swirling din.

This is a game they have played before; the rules kept safe
in the lilting monologue of the subway conductor,
in the line cook’s sage advice, in the baritone
of the bespectacled zealot who told us,
“No matter how hard you try, you can never make Him hate you.”

As the sun climbs higher, its beams break the silhouetted plane
of downtown, opening holes in logic, cutting power lines
into strips of ribbon. And you can see, more clearly now,
the trembling hands, the diagonal boulevards,
the thousands who are running, dancing, crying,
just waiting to make a king.

Something’s Gotta Give?

When prom was finally over, I parked the car,
told my date goodnight, and watched her pink dress
disappear, like a magnolia sinking in the light.

Breathless, I drove home, navigated the kitchen window,
where the Virgin Mary sat side-by-side with potted cacti,
then crept down the basement stairs to my room,
past superheroes, and holes in the wall my father made
when he realized he couldn’t send me to college.
In bed, I closed my eyes, and dreamt,
without vulnerability of dreaming, of here; of home.

Years later, as Grandma cackled in her hospital gown,
I put my arms around her, and remembered that last dance.


She was 64, they found her in the living room.
The TV was on, and must have been for quite a while,
because they say the smell was like broken glass.
“She was so nice,” says Mrs. Defron next-door, “always so sweet.”
And everyone has heard, how her bathtub was full
of cigarette butts and empty wine bottles.
“I just can’t believe she’s dead. Who will live there now?”
There was a piece of paper on her dinner table.
It said: “Your cross can’t save you now.”
In letters that were small and calm.
And how could any of us know, that at 19,
all her friends called her Meena, she wanted to be a veterinarian,
and liked to listen to The Kinks,
that spring was her favorite time of year,
and that she once saw Walter Cronkite at a bar in Houston, Texas.
Upstairs Mr. Caswell says, “At least she didn’t have cats.”

Miles Varana is currently the co-managing editor of Hawai’i Pacific Review. He enjoys naps, rainy days, and copious quantities of egg nog. His work has appeared in Yellow Chair Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, and is forthcoming in Unbroken. Miles lives with his girlfriend, Alana, and their pet bunny rabbit, Cameron.


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