The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Denise Miller’s “Core”

Denise Miller PicPhoto credit: Freshwater Photography

Origin Story: a braided triolet


It was always the whiskey bottle’s neck.
The fact that father’s fingers figure eighted mother’s
adam’s apple, pushed “i do” from these lips liquid as breath.
It was always the whiskey bottle’s neck.
I know you also got birthed from death.
I know your daddy grabbed the throat of your mother.
It was always the whiskey bottle’s neck—
the fact that daddy’s fingers figure-eighted mother’s.


how you know my nicotine and lovers
ain’t fruit from the family tree i watched my daddy plant?
how you know i don’t wanna be more than the fists of my father
how you know my nicotine and my lovers
ain’t the whiskey-wet haint that hovers
in my sons whose madness cuffs their kid’s hands?
how you know my nicotine and lovers
ain’t the fruit from the family trees I watched my daddy’s plant?


how you know?
We can’t.


This selection comes from Denise Miller’s book Core, available now from Willow Books. Purchase your copy here!

Denise Miller is a poet and mixed media artist whose work reflects conscious survival for herself and for individuals living in an “ism” driven culture. Her poetry and art are practices that merge activism, spirituality and craft that draws from and re-shapes cultural currents. Currently, Miller is working on a collection of poems that identify and interrogate the ways that people live out how the body evolves in the absence of peace, how the body navigates when the fiduciary/fixed points are sound and violence, and what people reflect or sound back in its presence.

Her publications include poems in Dunes Review, African American Review and Blackberry: A Magazine . She’s the 2015 Willow Books Emerging Poet, an AROHO Waves Discussion Fellowship awardee, a finalist for the Barbara Deming Money for Women Fund, and a Hedgebrook Fellow. Her newest book, Core, released from Willow Books in November 2015 has been nominated for a 2016 American Book Award and a 2016 Pushcart Prize. Additionally, one of her poems from a collection in progress has also been nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. More of her work can be found at

librecht baker. Dembrebrah West African Drum and Dance Ensemble member. Kouman Kele Dance and Drum Ensemble memeber. MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College. VONA/Voices & Lambda Literary Fellow. Sundress Publications’ Assistant Editor. Poetry in Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices & CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape. Currently, birthing & manifesting.


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