Ronda Miller

Ronda lives in Lawrence, where she works as a life coach helping those who have lost someone to homicide. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and she has two books, "Going Home: Poems from My Life,"  and "MoonStain."    (More bio below.)

 MoonStain

 Barn doors pushed shut an
indication something worth investigating was within. It took
all my strength to open, slide
to close again.

New birth in pungent urgency
led me to the still-born calf
quite warm. I nestled in the
hay beside it, placed
my arms around its neck.

I knew what death was, had
heard whispers of my
mother’s not long before. I
could hear the mother
cow’s loud bawling from
outside the back barn door.

I felt the spirit of the calf lift,
swirl around me, disappear.
It grew cold; I felt damp fear.

I sat in the caliginous stall
until my sister came, took my
hand, ran with me past my grandmother’s blood moon
lit garden of hollyhocks, iris,
strawberries, rhubarb, past the
spot where a rattler soaked up
water from a sprinkler one
August day, past the rotted
elm where winged
fire ants swarmed in balls
before they tumbled
to the ground.

We opened the rusted screen
door, tiptoed to bed where I laid
crying, because it felt so
wondrous, because it felt so
good, until the moonstain no longer
spread across the floor.

Wherever Wind

 Why fear when I know
which way the wind blows.

Any doubt and I walk from this
flat land to stand under the
oldest cottonwood tree, high on
the hill, to feel spit dry upon
one finger held skyward.

Which direction will my ashes carry once my remains no longer matter?

Will they shift and swarm as locust weathered during the depression?

Or, if the season is ripe, will they wash through dry creek beds like
the ones survived in the 50s?

Perhaps ashes sift, fine as silt, upon prairie loess and flowering meadows
where bee and bird alike carry them in all directions.

Or, maybe one blustery day, ashes mix with flakes so large they cover
black earth within seconds, layering upon frozen ground.

Time no longer a factor.

Fear no longer a presence.

Wherever wind takes me,
I remain in Kansas.

 

Winter Witch

Winter Witch’s furrowed mud
brow relaxes late month. Her charcoal hair streams for miles
into sluggish Ogallalah Aquifer
where she lies under earth’s
frozen crust.

Thighs, hardened thick
as tree trunks, slide open.
Juices bubble within her womb.

Hope makes its way in rivulets to
hair like follicles. Plant roots, a
tightly gathered loop lassoed by gnarled fingers, loosen in her
grasp. Dirt caked nails curl
black against forearm.

Catfish, frozen on creek bottoms, belch; a bubble of life surface
bound. All quiet as sun rotates,
brings direct gaze to deep
recesses, calls all nature
components in silent cadence.

Wind whipped crevices of
Arikaree Breaks whistle. Winter
Witch moans; rolls over.

February desolation
lustrating rains of April
neither here nor there…..
MAR…deface, disfigure, deform
followed by breathless CH……… 

What My Mother Didn't Teach Me I Learned from the Prairie 

My initial roots were shallow.
They had no place to root or
grow. I tried once, then again
praying it could be so.
There was no bosom to
rest my head nor covers
with which to make a bed.
I was a seedling,
transplanted here,
then there,
a feeling so alone.
Until one evening,
down by the Arikaree Breaks,
the prairie spoke to me,
this is what she said.

"The seed to life lives within you.
The prairie wind has all you need
of touch. Run with it not against it,
you don't have to be so tough.
The wind will caress you,
bring sensation to your life.
The prairie offers grasses, berries, mammals, all you need to thrive.
Prairie creeks run deep, bring
crystal waters to refresh your soul,
it's thirsty for so much.
Notice the colors that surround you.
They are a prairie rainbow show.
The yarrow brings you gaiety, the thistle hardiness, native grasses
spontaneity, feel the tickle of their touch. Find freedom in the
tumbleweeds, they teach
you how to roam. No constraints
to bind you, the prairie soil
is Harahey loam.

"
Mother Earth will hold you,
she rocks you as we speak.
Every step you take plants
roots deep. You grow through memories, through all of
those you love. Your words
spread as seedlings, your
tears like rain from above."

I dusted off my blue jeans, but
before climbing to my feet,
I kissed the prairie soil beneath
them, Lord, it smelled so sweet.
I heard the meadowlark,
trickling water in the creek,
the wind soothed my fears.
I believed what I'd been told,
then I heard this whisper,
"You've never been alone,
the prairie is your home."

 

Spanish Moss

 Spanish moss hanging low,
Swinging, swaying to and fro,
Dark and damp
Against the moon’s no show.
It’s there you know
Just unseen, black.

I’ll gather the moss,
Place it under your head,
Carry you out to your ocean bed,
Wave goodbye as you float away
On ocean waves, blue.

If I could ease your sleep
Into the deep, I’d do it.
Kiss your lips one last time,
You’re so old and you’re too young,
Your journey’s just begun, red.

But first I’ve got to let you go,
Kiss the lips that have grown so cold,
Push you out to sea
Away, so far away from me.
The moon hangs low.
It’s there you know, gold.

 

Stone-Eyed Cold Girl

 Between you, me, the universe…I fear I shall go mad!
Still, stars spin their course….I spin mine.
I’m the stone eyed cold girl cursing her mom for dying.
No bullet sounds, artery to bone to brain to farmer’s wife, under the harvest moon.
The crash of cymbals as crescendos on my skin…..
Shooting stars surround until I vibrate from their tone.
No truths to behold; just a farmer mourning ashes turned to grain to burnt toast.
Seed carried, blood stained prairie dust settles, waits to create anew.
Stitch a wing from cardinal to owl to make the switch….disjointed yet alive..
I'm an open wound…..breathe me back to life.

 
 

Passages

 Born into a world of bright
filled with round translucent
light, familiar faces surrounding. 

Birth of children, red with passion,
the crowning glory of our youth.
Picnics on the ground where
green sprouted out of brown.
Nature supplying seductive,
musical sounds. My frowns
brought laughter as if
I was clown instead of mother.
Love held no boundaries.

Saying goodbye was
an awful resound.
An echoing blackness
floated all around.
Shapeless, it filled spaces
left behind. Memories of a
hospital gown, scents of
death still hound. Years
not spent together wound
tight, a stabbing pain.

We thought we'd drown the
summer day we found the
mound to scatter ashes
among his parent's tombs.
Those genes I'd carried in
my womb knelt beside
me, held my hands.
Beaded blue bled through
like a missing rosary.

 

Lite House

I shared with you from our first moments dreams of capsized
boats, drowning, water washing
me ashore. I didn't know until
the telling what they meant.

Looking into your eyes,
hearing your story of encroaching death, I knew I was
flooding, not from without,
regardless of metaphor
or vessel, but from within.

Our first meeting hugs,
tears, a knowledge of
unspoken, unspeakable
shared grief. I held you as
lite house, beacon, revered
mentor. You touched my tears,
overlooked my fragility,
allowed me to lean against
you even though
I, physically, was the
stronger of the two.

And as this, your end, draws
near, you reach through
space with strength I do
not have. You touch
me one last time to share
words of praise, knowing
how important goodbyes
are for mooring, and just
how lost I am at sea.

 

Meeting Noah

 I met Noah today. He rests
along a road I’d never been
down before. Two dinosaurs
adorn the front of his headstone.

He was four days old when he
died; these days he would be
nine years old. We plant a pink
peony, his dad and I. He digs up
a large spade of grass; I hold
the plant still as he places one shovelful of moist, damp earth
after another over its bare roots.

I listen to the circumstances of Noah’s death where a definition means more than a word --
born with internal organs on
the outside of the body.
The telling and retelling help
mend an exposed heart.
“He was like a comet flashing across the sky; here, and then just gone.”

I feel as though I’ve watched Noah grow up, even though he never went home.
The cross stitch his father
did of him squatting in the sand
on a beach shows what he may
have looked like at age three. His blond hair is tousled, blue eyes
large, wide eyed, in wonder of the beauty of the universe surrounding.

A Chevy truck breaks our silence
as it goes slowly past the cemetery turn off. We see Noah’s younger brother and sister, faces pressed against the window, inside with
their maternal grandparents.

We wonder aloud what the kids are saying; if they ask to come to their dad, what their grandmother replies.

I wonder, silently, if this family of Noah’s, now separated by death and divorce, will continue to come to this site several times yearly for generations. I hope down the linage, they will one day stand together.

We head west, Noah’s father and me, where brown earth has rolled onto her back. Her soft, warm belly, recently itched and raked by farm machinery, unashamedly exposed.

Tell God Hi

 for me I joke as he lists a kiss to
my lips and walks out the door
on his way to Sunday school.

I stay in bed propped
against a pillow and heating
pad. I fell on the snow
slippery driveway yesterday.

My commune will be the
spirituality I find in poems I
edit for a favorite poet from
Wichita. Both my lover and
the poet were raised Catholic.
I wonder how different my
spirituality might be had it
been the same for me.

Movement outside the window
draws my eyes upwards to view
a squirrel on the neighbor’s
roof doing a downhill slalom
ski move around the chimney.

I think of poetry, where it
takes me; how it soothes
and heals, invigorates,
connects me to humankind,
here and now, for eternity.

I think of turning onto my
side the night before; the feel
of his warm belly spooned
against my back, legs curved,
feet entwined. That afterglow
as natural, as fulfilling,
as poetry.

 

I Am My Home

though guests are welcome

for a short visit or two,

and when no visitors

come I sometimes feel

blue, I am my home

I live quite alone with all

of my favorite things.

With words as my food,

and thoughts as my bed,

I've become comfortable

alone in my head. I am

my home, I keep house

with my heart.

 

Follow the Call

 Flaunt, engage, entice, this plane I leave behind bliss for one, hell for another. I'm not turning my back on you as I go into the wind. I hear your cries and I will not abandon even though my shadow no longer lingers under the roving ways of the sun.

My voice no longer bends in laughter, echoes with oblique seagulls or sounding waves upon the shore. Footprints? None left to fill. You're as complete as I ever was.

Shouldering the ways of this earthly experience has brought me to my knees time and time again, sometimes broken, more often
to pray. My presence lingers in the lap of fall, breeze upon your neck, cloak of rain washes tears away.

I surround and sing as bird upon highest bough, as swoop and
dive of otter under the surface
as he skims. I'd reach back for
you if I could, knowing you follow brings solace, an uplifted
spirit. Walk on, don't look back,
those who fell off the path
before us, before we felt it was
their time, call loudly. I have
no choice but to follow.

 

Unspoken Bonds

 They sit separated by a

grandson. She's separated

by almost everything these

days due to dementia. It's

said we should live In the

moment. She does that well. Moments repeat themselves

with other 'in the moment

moments' in between. He

doesn't know he meets with

hospice tomorrow; that he'll be accepted into it. The implication being that he has less than six months to live. He senses her thoughts as she has them. They

lean back in their chairs at the

same time, make eye contact,

fingers touch behind their

grandson, retract, smiles

light their faces.

They begin to eat breakfast.

 

Embrace

 Our mothers’ thighs open wide
Screams echo throughout the skies
A bolt of thunder, slick with blood
We escape the womb of love
Find ourselves in
Her embrace

We grow, we thrive
Walk then run like all mankind
Return in times of need
Open-mouthed, filled with
Despair to feel
Close once more in a
Mother's embrace

Time does not stand still
We go to school in socks
And shoes
Hunger for the latest
news/fashion trends
Knowledge, right or wrong
From friends, not family,
We embrace

We meet our mates
A ‘lover’s quest’.  Invite inside
A special guest to become as
One, strive so hard for this
Then fall away exhausted from
The embrace

I give birth, find it’s true
I feel the emptiness of you
Fullness slips from my inner
Flesh, I reach to view your face
Give a kiss, your
First embrace

Now I’m old, dreams long buried
Cycles and seasons, an endless hurry
My spiritual birth takes place
Mother Nature accepts my
Encasement, the end of life, a
Final goodbye, one
Last embrace

 

Creek Play

 If you look closely,
small, freckled limbs,
not yet diagnosed with MS,
make their way boldly
up a dusty hill once
mountainous in size.
A creek, both deep and dry,
drew us in season after season
as our bodies changed
and dreams grew larger
than the sky.
Hiding, playing
cowboys and Indians,
each passing car
a threat from near and far.
Years later, shared dates and
hope for future plans
left less time or attention
to the barren, rugged
beauty of the land.
To climb those hills,
fill my nose with the dusty smell
of Kansas, sneezing out
the ability to be young.
We searched for fossils,
dinosaur teeth and arrowheads,
found rattlesnakes and cow skulls.
I became a mother and a writer.
You manufactured crack -
just think about that.
If we went back and did it again,
would the sunset still inspire,
would our desire to escape
have changed?
Would my body, spasming in pain,
be made whole?
Would you still be imprisoned,
feeling the brutal Kansas winter
from within a castle prison
on the prairie?
 

Coats  and Friends

 I take my coat to you for a remake. It isn’t mine or my mother’s. She left
me her wedding dress of dark
gray, a 1940’s Art Deco mirror, rectangular shaped with gold swirls on all four
sides, so I can look
into my past/future/watch for
her features in my face.

I say, “I’m thinking southwestern
style with horses/silhouettes of
birch trees; maybe a sunset.”

You say, “If I were to ask you to
write a poem for my wedding, I wouldn’t tell you what to write."

I understand it is trust you
require from me and silence.
I respond, “I wouldn’t write
a poem about death for
your wedding. I would
ask you questions.”

I put on the white, wool coat that comes down to my shins. It’s as heavy as a
blanket. I think how
lovely it is. Maybe I should leave it alone. It isn’t my mother’s coat, but
it is someone’s mother’s coat. I love
it even though I never wear it.
You say, “Let’s shorten it to knee length, add a couple of buttons
here, get rid of the sash.”

I picture the new look, think
how modern/light it will feel.

You say, “I’m thinking Art Deco.”

I say, “I trust you,” and then I leave.


Barns Don't Die

 Barn siding stripped like skin, nails pulled, hauled away in a truck
much the same way they were carried in by a horse drawn
carriage two hundred years ago.

 

Lives since lived grown old and feeble. Livestock born inside, love made on a hay bed by a farmer and his wife. No kids of the human kind.

 

Their dreams haven't died, they reside in wood, a refinished
table, part of a city girl's
Thanksgiving and Christmas
dinner with shine added to
cells, stories whispering within.

 

Listen, hear coos of morning
doves, the shedding, crackling
skin from a rattlesnake, meows
of newborn kittens, the bawling
death of a calf born with two
heads, moans from its mother
in distress, sighs from a farmer.

 

Barns don't die, they splinter, fragmented lives disintegrate, integrate, carried by wind into
the prairie landscape. 



Ronda Miller’s favorite saying: “Poetry is our most natural connection between one another,” applies to her personal life as well as her professional one.

     A Life Coach born in Ft. Collins, Colorado, she was raised on a farm by her maternal grandparents in the high plateau region of NW Kansas, where love for the beauty and healing aspects of nature and poetry began. She holds degrees in Human Development and Creative Writing from the University of Kansas, is a Fellow of The Citizen Journalism Academy, World Company, and a Certified Life Coach with IPEC (Institute of Professional Empowerment Coaching).

     She began volunteering her services as a Life Coach via Grief Works, for those who have lost someone to homicide, in 2008. She is Poetry Contest Manager for Kansas Authors Club (2011 – present).  She became President of Kansas Authors Club, District 2, in November of 2013. 

     She created poetic forms Loku and Ukol. 
She has poems in BEGIN AGAIN: 150 Kansas Poems, To the Stars Through Difficulty: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices, and TallGrass Voices. She wrote The 150th Pony Express Reride Documentary in 2010. 

     Ronda's poems have appeared in numerous journals, have been transformed into art, and are found at The Archives of The Smithsonian Art Institute in connection with American Artist Roger Shimomura. Her memoir, "Gun Memories of a Stone-Eyed Cold Girl," and second book of poetry, "MoonStain," are expected to be released in 2015. 

Her first book of poetry was "Going Home: Poems from My Life," which can be purchased at The Raven in Lawrence.