The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


E. Ethelbert Miller

Is Eric Dolphy Coming or Going?


It's 12:08 and Frank O'Hara
is late for lunch. He often gets
lost outside New York. I'm in Starbucks
near DuPont Circle sitting with Billy Strayhorn.
Our conversation turns to Pittsburgh and for
a moment I want to be August Wilson
or Roberto Clemente. Billy asks to see
my Washington Post. He wants to know
what the police are doing these days.
Frank arrives and he looks like
Mona Lisa with a smile. Maybe it's
the danger that comes with museum work.
Eric Dolphy is eating next door, he whispers.
At times Frank can be as difficult as Ashbery.
Have they ever met?  Imagine all
the New York poets moving to New Jersey
and never taking the Amtrak to DC.
Billy hands the newspaper back. It's 12:30
and everyone is in a sentimental mood.
We rise and go next door. Dolphy
looks up from his plate and says the
food sucks but it's better than the music
people are playing these days. He laughs
and tells Frank to keep his day job.
Billy tries to be as gracious as Duke.
He nods at Dolphy and the two of them
walk outside for a smoke. I think of
Dolphy's Out to Lunch album. The
clock tells me this man is never coming


E. Ethelbert Miller

Amazing Grace


So you want to know
what happened in the jail
cell? You don't believe
your eyes and the tape
refuses to confess.
What's left?

It's a Mulder and Scully
moment. Yes - another
black body found in
the X-files hanging
in a cabinet in the
middle of the basement
at the center of the




E. ETHELBERT MILLER is a writer and literary activist. He is the author of several collections of poems and two memoirs and the board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies. In April 2015, Miller was inducted into the Washington, DC Hall of Fame. His most recent book is The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller, edited by Kirsten Porter and published by Willow Books.



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