John Milbury-Steen


Consider, daughter, our ancestors’ luck,
all those bullets missing vital organs,
the luck of our people running from Viking raids,
surviving plagues in almost emptied towns,
toxic roots in famines, germs in the veins,
and gorings on the tusks of mastodons.

All our people suffering close calls
and going on to breed made possible
you and me. Then such escapes should be
family heirlooms more than silver or gold
and we as the result should know we are
heirs of unimaginable fortunes

that with every breath should make us glad,
and to which you, in your escapes, will add.

As for me, before you were begot,
I put the point of a screwdriver on
a touchy wire and almost got killed.
Following a sandbar out, I drowned
almost once. Once, I would have pulled
in front of a truck, but for your mother’s shout.

Such pre-begotten luck is properly yours,
as it flows down your tributary line,
but any escapes I’ve had since you were born,
are unbequeathable, entirely mine,
such as this afternoon my having learned
the monster that attacked me was benign.

That’s a blessing I cannot pass on,
except in this, my trivial newborn son.

John Milbury-Steen has work published or forthcoming in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Blue Unicorn, Bumbershoot, The Centrifugal Eye, Chimaera, Christianity and Literature, Contemporary Sonnet, Dark Horse, The Deronda Review (Neovictorian/Cochlea), Kayak, Hellas, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, The Listening Eye, Lucid Rhythms, The Piedmont Literary Review, Scholia Satyrica, Shenandoah, Shattercolors, the Shit Creek Review and Umbrella. He served in the Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa; did a Master’s in Creative Writing with Ruth Stone at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana; worked as an artificial intelligence programmer in Computer Based Education at the University of Delaware; and currently teaches English as a Second Language at Temple University, Philadelphia.