Three Poems by Devon Miller-Duggan

Gallimaufry: A History


…a jumble, a hodgepodge, from Old French galler (to make merry)

and Middle Dutch moffelen (to open one’s mouth wide)


7th grade (& 8th) the fave was gossamer—

Awkward, given that all I wrote were sermons

on Man’s Inhumanity to Man.


College thru 35: gather

gathering my hair into a bun,

gathering my long skirts,

tucking them into the waistband

to climb something rocky,

lifting them for boys I gathered in. Gathering

books, husband, daughters, house.


Skin and flesh then.

I’d started writing about angels

all the time. The world is made of wings. I swear.


Throckmorton (though it’s proper). Ditto Fotheringay.

Farthingale, namaste, kerfuffle, clusterfuck,

pumpkin, Munchkin, snog.


Muzzy learnt from Stevens. Gaudy from Sayers.

Fuck and shit, my mother (bless her tongue).

Useless, except I love to spit it out, Yoknapatawpha.

Faulkner visited my grandfather once.

Elevenses from Tolkein. Downeast from Bert&I.

Etherized from Eliot. Ken and keen (for lamentation, not wit)

from something Irish. Merkin from Snodgrass.

Transubstantiate from Lehrer.


Newly: thrawn for what is crooked, contrary,

misshapen, perverse. Got looking something else up.


Experience: gallimaufry.

Address: ball of tied-together scraps of yarn.

Skills: gallimaufry

Award: a muffler made of tied-together scraps of yarn.



Laments, Not Tragic


For years I sat at a potter’s wheel

and pushed my hands against clay

to raise some vessel’s sides and

never got a single metaphor from it.

All my poems wheel around against the hands

of my intentions. Not a single poem

ever held a cup of tea

or sat on a table full of rosy fruit.


Someone stole my yard gnomes,

leaving me to wonder why they hadn’t left

on their own—the gnomes, that is.


Right now, someone

across the whole coffee shop

writes a cure for entropy I’ll never learn enough to read.

Someone uses a computer to learn a third language

and I can barely remember my first.

Someone is dying for love and writing desperate bad poems.

Even the birds outside

know where to go.


Ten days from now my daughter will

walk down an aisle toward another woman’s son.


I read a Southwestern woman’s poems about rice—

every grain she cooks breaks open

into revelation, or reminds her of

the horse in her back yard

picturesquely cropping weeds

against the backdrop of mountains and clouds.





The Gull-Girl


After she sluffed her first skin,

although one wing had yet to feather fully,

thorns broke out of the spine under the new skin

as if feathers were razors for hacking wind.


As long as her new skin’s fledging

reflected the moon, the streetlights, the rising waves,

the tide fell and the gulls remembered their tongues,

the bay sifted the rubbished from the born.


Because the skin was hidden by the man

who bound her before the storm took the bay,

before the cinders fell away from the dunes,

before night,

even the gulls’ throats closed.


Then the gulls’ cries opened.

even as wind winged.


Say how she searched for the third skin among the broken things.


See if the fourth skin asked for the gulls.


Since he chained her near the fire, the storm

came for her, dumping its tears and feathers from its wind-borne arms.

Still, she wanted the fire and the wrack when

she lay herself down among the skins, the rust, the shards.

She remembered his hands.


Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in Rattle, Shenandoah, Margie, Christianity and Literature, Gargoyle. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008), Neither Prayer, Nor Bird (Finishing Line Press, 2013), Alphabet Year, (Wipf & Stock, 2017).