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City Lights: The view from 70, from a fellow poet and namesake

December 03, 2013|By Michael Miller

When I was 12, I got a copy of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bookends" album and found myself transfixed by the bridge of the song "Old Friends." The lyrics, sung in a fragile tenor by Art Garfunkel, declare, "Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be 70."

Seventy seemed terribly strange then, and now that I am 34, it still does — as does 35, 40 and every other age in between. Perhaps I live in a constant state of denial; perhaps many of us do. We are surrounded by people further on the path of life and know that we'll someday catch up to them, but how easy is it to imagine our own hair grayer, our own face more lined and our head filled with decades more knowledge?

The above is more somber than I originally intended. I was set to write a lightweight piece. But as I hold a book of poems by an identically named author who is more than twice my age — and read the handwritten inscription on the front page, "For Michael Miller, with good wishes, Michael Miller" — it feels almost like a missive from my own future.

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A few weeks ago, I gave a reading of my latest book, "The First Thing Mastered," at Barnes & Noble in Huntington Beach. Amid the familiar faces in the audience were a pair of women in the front row who had come expecting to see the other poet, and they sheepishly admitted so during the question-and-answer session afterward.

I'm used to encountering other Michael Millers. When I was growing up, there were a dozen or so of me in the Orange County phone book, and I used to spot newspaper listings for a local singer-songwriter with my name. Still, the Barnes & Noble discovery felt like a remarkable coincidence, and after the reading, I went online and searched for the other poet.

Michael Miller No. 1 — I'll defer to his age by slotting myself as No. 2 — turned out to be a New York City native, born in 1940, who now lives in Massachusetts. His poems, according to the CavanKerry Press website, have appeared in the New Republic, the American Scholar, the Yale Review and elsewhere. His third and latest book, "Darkening the Grass," came out in 2012.

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