"The Plows" by Matt Miller

Poet Matt Miller was born and raised in Lowell, MA. He is a graduate of Yale University and Emerson College. His work has been published in a number of literary journals, and he has worked as a Visiting Professor of Writing at New England College. He has taught writing workshops at Harvard Extension, Cambridge College, Endicott College, and Stanford University, where he was awarded the prestigious Stegner Writing Fellowship. 

In the poem below, “The Plows,” Miller brings all corners of a mill city in a state of frozen aftermath to life, with the use of gritty, jarring and, at times, personified imagery. The poem is from his Pushcart Prize-nominated collection, Cameo Diner. You can order the book at <loompress.com>.

The Plows

Like trick ink into a sketch diary,

this town of mills and bridges fades

into the blink of morning that an ice

storm has left behind. The river cricks

arthritically with floes that rub

cozy as lovers against each other.

Icicles fang from power lines,

from maples and pines that creak and clink.

Upon their pikes are impaled the ghosts

that haunt alleys and garbage cans

with groans of winter. Thick chunks

of ice are scattered in the streets

like teeth busted loose from brawling

frost giants and which no one has bothered

to sweep up. Until, that is, the trucks,

muscled by big Detroits, rumble

their diesel hearts out of park, hubs locked,

clutches grinding. Grunting behind

diamond-plated plows they shake. They scrape

the daybreak raw of quiet and ice.

Throwing off sparks, they tear concrete 

from out under the silver glow of lanes,

avenues, empty lots, and two-

car driveways. Iron shovels

furrow through crystal. Buckets dump

their salt and sand. The sleepers wake

from under cotton tents to a dawn

choking gasoline through their windows.

Gears shift for torque. The gray and hard

begins to grid across the town

as the plows crush out the glowing pearl

of snow that had thrown up its light,

for a few hours, against the horizon.

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