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The 5th Inning

In books on January 6, 2009 at 5:44 pm



In March, poet and literary activist, E. Ethelbert Miller will release his second memoir, The 5th Inning. In an exclusive essay for of note, Miller reflects on the family photo that inspired the cover art for the book. “Years before Michelle and Barack, we were the Millers,” he recalls of that ‘family-next-door’ moment.  

But as he unwraps the story behind the photograph – the story of a family and of years passed, he crafts a narrative about the fragments, the spaces, the isolation within our lives. “This is what we do as writers,” he says, “We write about the smiles we can no longer wear and the suffering that we do.”

I’m looking at the book cover of my second memoir, The 5th Inning. The cover features the artwork of my friend Andy Shallal, the owner of Busboys and Poets in Washington D.C. Andy was able to create a collage from a photo taken by Dan Moldea. He took the picture back in 2005 on the day my son Nyere-Gibran graduated from Gonzaga High School. It’s a remarkable photo in that it captures my entire family laughing and in a moment of complete joy. I have no memory of what we were laughing at, other than Dan perhaps saying just relax and disguise yourself for history. We are all standing in the backyard of our house on Underwood Street. In the picture with me are my daughter, mother, sister, son, and wife. What the picture doesn’t capture is what took place in front of the house before Dan arrived. 

It’s my son’s graduation and he is happy. My wife has fixed up the entire house, ordered chairs and tables for the backyard, cooked food and made arrangements for about 50 people or more. Standing in front of the house waiting for people to arrive, my son and I soon realized very few people were coming. I could feel the disappointment in his voice overshadowed by the jokes we  passed back and forth. We both knew that this special day was another day in our lives–that connected us more than blood or flesh. If I was a blues singer I would have presented my son with a guitar and congratulated him for graduating into my world.

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