Video of “There is Life to Do”

Here is a video of my monologue “There is Life to Do”, performed on June 4th, 2016 by Sam Perry (as the bartender). Tracy McQuillan plays the bar patron. The Strand Project is a collaboration between Lit Youngstown and Selah Dessert Theatre.

There Is Life To Do scene

Wayne L Miller and Sam Perry


orange juice yellow beets brown bread
once more she sets the table

arranging dishes
placing napkins

forks spoons knives
centering chairs by placemats

then placemats by chairs
tureen vegetable soup steam

cold salads covered
no grapefruit spoons or fish forks

yet again
she checks the simmering roast

reverently adjusting burners
almost hot enough

to start with
blue corn chips green salsa black olives

inviting me she
touches my shoulder

— Published in The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow #8 (2015)

They moved into the house across the street

They moved into the house across the street.
Chinese, I thought.
My wife thought they were Japanese.

Our grandkids were in the school play with their grandkids.
Our wives met when they helped set up the stage.
We were invited over.

Their house brought back memories of ’68 Da Nang,
the smells of the SVA guys cooking their rice dishes.

He asked me, was I in the war, and I told him about
a couple of firefights near Khe Sanh.

He said that he was stationed in Hanoi until ’67,
and then he commanded a couple of VC squads. He asked
if I was ok with that.

I took a deep breath. Just two guys talking.

It was a long time ago.

I offered him my hand.

This persona poem was originally published in
The Paterson Literary Review #43 2015-2016


My grandfather’s eldest brother, Sam,
a widower with three daughters,
had little understanding of girls.

The youngest was keeping company
with a boy for too long. My grandmother
asked them both to dinner.

During dessert, she asked his daughter,
So, you love him? You want to marry him?


She asked the boyfriend,
So, you love her? You want to marry her?


She picked up a calendar and placed it in front of them.
Pick a date.

— Published in The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow #7 (2014)

Wrap Her Voice

Rolled blanket

Up on the stage, she slowly waves her hands over her head
Her ethereal song lifting all those around her
Singing as an angel
An ancient spirit is upon her

Afterwards, the techs wrap her voice
In a large blanket rolled around and around
To tightly fit roadie case #15
For transport to the next venue

Unpacked fifteen minutes before climbing onto the arena stage
She tests her voice and prepares for her call

He said that they should not silence her melody
Her sound should flow as freely as the wind
So she can answer the birds outside
And sing to her children

He begged her to think about her sacrifices
He reminded her that her voice is owned by her and not by her manager

She glanced at him, and he knew, more than if she spoke a thousand words
Her dream and her destiny

On the stage, she looks at him standing in the front row as she sings of love
He looks back, mouthing his response
And she slowly smiles, as a woman, as an angel, as a star

Pastry café


Saturday morning
Round white tables
Comfortable seats
Near the window
Almond croissant and coffee
Talk about our day
Touch your hand
College students at the next table
Local couple behind us
Pastry chef kneading dough
Counter workers filling orders
Take home a sandwich for lunch
Biscotti for tonight
Elephant ears for the kids
Fruit tarts for tomorrow’s dinner
Napoleon for the car
Cookies for whenever
Macarons for the holidays
All the colors
Stop by the farmer’s market
Then the library
Saturday afternoon
And be with you in the evening

Rainbows and Rain

It was a day of rainbows and rain
This morning, he is at peace for the first time
She has a future, though she does not know her present

The sudden call at six am
Driving through the drizzle
Holding back grief
Phone calls, conferences, cleaning, finding
Piecing her life together after so many years

On the drive back
Very bright rainbows
One after another
And then a double rainbow
Large and near

It was a day of rainbows and rain
We stop for a sandwich on the way
A right, a left, there they are
Water falling from above as we prepare to place earth onto his casket

Silence, prayers, words, deeds
We are to cover him
Two shovels, two lines of people
Dirt falling onto sanded pine, hollow echoes
Someone places one shovelful, another moves nine
Each at work, focused, a job to do, he is on their mind
The tree above me is soaked and can no longer protect us
Steam rises from the dark hot footpaths
No thunder or lightning

How do we remember him?
How can we remember him?
Did we really know him?
Could anyone?

Silence, prayers, words, a sense
Rain falling on asphalt, grass, tombstones, dirt
Each making their own sound as the droplets bounce

On the drive back
A full rainbow
All across the sky, left, above, right
We want to pass under it, but it recedes as we drive
Through it we see the green of the mountain
The blue of the sky
The white of the clouds
Illuminating the thoughts of these days
And the path ahead

Step by step

By step

The Ghost of Christmas Pluperfect

I am the Ghost of Christmas Pluperfect
Born when you had decided to ignore your fellow man
Growing when you had decided to take from your fellow man
Matured when you had decided to abuse your fellow man

You are the result of your decisions
Blinded when you had removed your inner sight
Deafened when you had removed your inner ear
Lost when you had removed your inner compass

Reflecting to the world your path’s history
Fated when you had wandered away from home
Dirtied when you had left the well-trodden road
Bleeding when you had tripped over your own stumbling block

Lessons right in front of you
Written when you had screamed for help
Bound when you had lifted your arms to the sky
Learned when you had opened your eyes

Presents within your reach
Taken when you had seen your fingers against the blue sky
Opened when you had touched the white clouds
Thankful when you had become part of our colorful world

You became who you were meant to be
When you had kissed your wife
When you had hugged your children
When you had looked out of your window to feel the joy of neighbors

I took my leave of you
When you had found your need for others
When you had rejoined the family of man
When you had no further use for me

Coffee Shop Table

Scratched by

Coffee cups and plates

Used by those


Works with

A soft word
Can I take your order?
More coffee?
Here is your check
A hand over the loose change

Existing for another

Commercial lease

Cleaned and cleaned again
Old wood pattern
Medium tan
Off white
Reflections of the ceiling lights on the scratches
Lines and curves
Heads tilt one way then another to see the next story
Shiny pictures of experience
Different wrinkles of age
More tales of years past
Another song from the road
A bard for dining patrons

Closing time
The owner presses the switch
Looks around
Walks outside
Locks up
No more stories until morning’s light
Late night waiting for the first rush of the day

Coffee shop table

We are its props in the play of life