On David Miller’s
Spiritual Letters 1-12

Norman Weinstein











Cut into a book of medieval Spain as Islamic, Jewish, Christian men of letters could be still as each composed within a baroquely austere frame. In the force field between “baroque” and “austere,” in that “no man’s land,” enters a figure of a woman-in-exile who guards and measures what sentences must be. Sentenced. Every letter, as well as letter a spiritual glint off of the armor of some night. Night with a full suit changes into a skeleton. The poem’s exoskeleton could only be taken as “prose” under a carbon lamp not yet invented, perhaps x-ray. Meantime, David Miller frames spiritual exercises within each alphabetic orbit. Because he must allow a spell to be cast in interstices of what letters propose. Like, “I do—never!”


            He’s having afternoon tea with a woman he found on the streets of a mind diverted by John of the Cross. Where histories go uncharted she can step into the bloody sandals of John. Of the cross she understands palm as a root for “palimpsest.” Of the California she left behind for London she’ll hint at shallow superficial synchronicity important only in that they make her sentences go on, but what if they don’t, then Santa Ana winds test willful faith in the spine-gone book of somebody’s Nature.


            Brushwork, in David’s book, matters as lines refine & thicken, thicken, I tell you, as grey wash washes into those chapel walls, black in the heart of Texas. The very reading of the soul’s squid-like grope awash in its own ink matters because relationship in every letter matters. Between what’s left unsaid because it’s unsayable, & what’s left because the saying renders a person saying more & less than person, there’s a sensual tang of stately correspondence. T’ang dynasty pottery, austere – baroque, bites a ginger bullet when museum-embalmed. In brushing crumbs off a dining room table David’s book flies open to “Having come to the wall he poses standing on the stones.” Who doesn’t, dies, as in “dynasty,” as in, whose ashes in the pot smoke when sun hits it just so.


            Sounds within David’s book: walking with the honeyed slowness of a walking meditation thru a mirrored door the other side of which demands an even more unimaginable slowness, but this time, of reading. “I had thought to speak of struggle but spoke of vigilance.” Had thought to speak of a slackness of attentiveness at the heart of even art acclaimed as major, from all quarters, but then a phone rang, & yet another divorce, & then a siren, a bass-clouding boom box. Then the window frame, noting, with annoyance, its placement just off-center enough. To be. No chaser. Go & chase that anima, that one as straight as Zeno’s arrow, going nowhere. How lettered a Monk, how dancing, letters.


            A stone tossed into Lorca’s grave, this book. Read the inscription on its going down slow.


            A stone lifts itself ready for inscription off the letter pressed page. Magnetically a stone sucks the (implied) energy from the word “void.” The book’s length: a stone’s throw at? behind? a cross?


            How contained a saint’s outpouring during a spirit’s wintry walking meditation upon honey pouring, then oil, then semen, in this order, then blood, & then ink. David Miller’s outpouring: a mirrored door inviting demanding center post circling before a cross looms. Letters a cross proposes loom in minding all consequences, of the life & letters that are inescapable, here we are, in the prying open of what isn’t there, & gratitude for such unsayable attention.




David Miller,             Spiritual Letters 1-12. San Francisco: hawkhaven press, 1999. (Incorporated in David Miller’s Spiritual Letters I-II and other writings, Hastings: Reality Street Editions, 2004.)