joe milford




You have a kleptomaniac living inside.
The house it has built, pilfer-cluttered
With keychains, panties, lighters, chapstick
Tubes--all manner of things in check-out
Lanes easily pocketed--compulsive thing
Inside of you and its hunger--even you
Wish it would get caught--you could swallow
Pills to chase it, or try to purge it out,
But this thief is too intimate, too wrapped
Around your warped spine with its tendrils.
Could it be that you identify with the need?
You collect people like baseball cards--what
Could be so different--maybe befriend
The vagabond aspect--after all, wouldn't
The two of you make an incredible team?
Think of the jobs the both of you could pull.
You make your boring sandwiches for lunch
At work the next day when you could be
Executing some small caper to taste adrenaline.
Over time, the klepto grows in you, slowly
Escaping your lips now and then as new slang.
You begin thinking of taking things off
Of the desks of colleagues. you steal pens
Anyway--those you can always call an accident.
Just think, inside the kleptomaniac in you,
In its core, is a boring teacher of language
Imploring the thief to proceed with caution
But the thief only listens out of self-preservation
Confident that the teacher is only posturing.
Both steal life in the lie they live. stealing
From each other in a constant coil
Of negotiation. That shiny new pocket flashlight
And those toenail clippers--relax--you took them
Only because they were functional, and tonight
The English teacher cuts his gnarled and mangled toes
After making his boring lunch, and puts his thief to sleep.

Joseph Victor Milford is a full time professor of English and a published poet. His first collection, Cracked Altimeter, is being published by BlazeVox books. He is married to the poet Chenelle Milford and is the host of The Joe Milford Poetry Show ( and co-editor of the literary journal, SCYTHE (

back to issue 12

take me home