Devon Miller-Duggan


Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in Margie, The Antioch Review, Massachusetts Review, and Spillway. She teaches at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008), Alphabet Year (Wipf & Stock, 2017), and The Slow Salute (Lithic Press Chapbook Competition Winner, 2018).


n. The feeling that …what you do is always something wrong—as if there is some obvious way forward that everybody else can see but you, each of them leaning back in their chair and calling out helpfully “colder, colder, colder...” The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig I thought I had an idea then forgot to take my pills. I’m that age already and still don’t have a bucket list or understand how it would help to carry a list in a bucket. No, I get the reference, and plan on going out kicking, but fret I won’t remember why I’m fuzzled by having to leave. Was watering the plant, had remembered to, noticed a stain on the tablecloth, got to thinking about the breakfast that made the stain, fussed at self for eating an extra egg, though the stain was from sloshed coffee. Intentions definitely have wheels which only, ever hurry them away from the parking lot of my brain. Other people can memorize. My granddaughter drew a picture of the inside of her head—a splatter of numbers (she was supposed to be doing math) andsymbolsandsquiggles and I wanted to cry. Other people remember to look at their to-do lists first thing in the day—after taking the proper pills properly. I only know 4 poems by heart. Which means my heart is at least one kind of empty. I might know five. Here I am, 66 years into my life and my ribs are still figuring out what to do with themselves, what to hold in, what to let go.

I've been writing poems based on words from John Koenig's internet project (soon to be out in hardcopy, I think), The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, in which he makes up words we don't have in English for subtle emotional states. ‘Sonder’ is the first of his words to pass into general use. Some of the poems in the series are more abstract, but this word hits close to home. I've had that feeling often throughout my life, as many do, but moving into aging is particularly full of tiny moments of uncertainty in ways that feel new to me, so for right now, pâro is my dominant emotion for the experience.