The Deserted Millwheel

                          For Elizabeth

Immaculately fixed, the millwheel stands
Before encroaching winter, taxed and spent
Dreaming in the water that puts its hands

On verging river banks, and scoured strands
Emerge, whale-like, from gathered sediment,
Immaculately fixed. The millwheel stands

To know the absences which fill the land’s
Unpeopled parks and drives. Its blades are bent
Dreaming in the water that hides its hands

From streaming prayer where rainbow trout remands
The seal of God’s alluvial event
Immaculately. Fixed, the millwheel stands

By every creaking turn that time commands:
It’s dealt in grain and sand with hushed lament.
Dreaming in the water that folds their hands,

The dead will weigh by scales these shifting sands
That silence rotten timber’s testament:
Immaculately fixed, the millwheel stands,
Dreaming in the water that frees its hands.

Upon this rough and tumble, water’s slough,
That threads through broken teeth, the queered
And broken planks resist what’s false and true
Of limb – accomplishing a circle squared
To what its body takes in and all that give
It out. A breeze alone could bring it down,
But will its peace of soul yet hold its own?
Its augured piles are foot-sure to survive
The play of coon and possum, each a prince
Within its thatch of hair, their residence.
Through millstone heart, the hurried currents crest
And curl around each swollen knee and joist.
Immaculately fixed, the millwheel stands
Dreaming in the water that was its hands.


  1. Big Jon Bully says

    Complex and excellent. Cool pic too. Thanks, JOB.

  2. Big Jon Bully says

    Read this out loud to myself and it’s really beautiful. Very well done.

  3. Quin Finnegan says

    Et in Arcadia ego … multa bella versa ici.

  4. Quin Finnegan says

    Seems to me we may have seen this particular noria before …

  5. Quin Finnegan says
  6. Thanks. I don’t read a lot of poems. Seeing that it was titled, Elizabeth, reminded me that in the past summers when I have been in the US the man who reads out the train timetables at Newark likes to say, ‘Elizabeth’.

    • Louise,

      Actually, that’s the dedication – my sister-in-law – who in another context used the phrase “dreaming in the water” – and thus a poem was born. The title is the same as that of the post itself. (The Deserted Millwheel).

      For the first 19 years of my life, I lived a stone’s throw from Elizabeth, NJ. A beautiful name for a not-so-beautiful town. (It often emits the odor of gas being refined…)

      At any rate, thanks for reading!


  7. Big Jon Bully says

    If you look at a map and don’t know any better, New Jersey seems like a many faceted jewel, full of wonder. The Garden State.

  8. Quin Finnegan says

    Job … I was trying to recall another poem the first part didn’t quite bring to mind, and I’ve now remembered it: “Every Riven Thing” by Christian Wiman, which isn’t quite a villanelle. It’s the changing syntax in the repeated “Immaculately” line.

  9. Max Pizarro says


    • Max!

      Highest of praise coming from you! Take a look around this blog – the fellas and gal who write for it are all topnotch – you remember Matthew Lickona, of course (he’s Broderick) and the rest are unified by our love for all things Percy – as in Walker Percy.



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