Ryder W. Miller

About Ryder W. Miller

Ryder W. Miller writes short stories, poetry, and articles about American literature, San Francisco, California, and the natural history of places he enjoys exploring, including Mt. Rainier. He is the editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey and the co-author of San Francisco: A Natural History

John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath at 75: New Lyric Poem

Cover image of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath


Great to remember it
and re-re-read it again
on the 75th anniversary,
i.e., The Grapes of Wrath.
Central to Steinbeck’s oeuvre.
One must keep it in mind
to remember and celebrate
this author who went on
to champion the working poor
the concerns of America
and become an international literary figure.
One should remember
their trip down the highway
in the old truck,
the people they encounter
and the bodies buried along the way.
There are the dreams of Casy
The Whole Shebang
The lessons of Ma Joad
The aspirations of Tom
Rose of Sharon’s child on the way
The night skies over the Mohave
The strike-breakers
and the poor farmers
on their way to farms with work
in the distant parts of the state.
There is also
The Flood
and the sad folks who
need, like so many more of us now,
to stay above the rising waters.

Those Awesome Night Skies

Those nights on Ocean Beach,
in The City by the Bay,
reminded me that there are other places
where one can see the wonders
of the night sky better,
places without as much light pollution as now,
and now with space debris.

Steinbeck who chronicled
the night skies over the Mohave
for the trip the Joads took in The Grapes of Wrath,
probably enjoyed looking at the stars, like George,
and others, like me, he might have been transfixed
by the moon and stars, and commented also
about the soils of Mars in a letter.

He also thought they were called Lunatics for a reason,
i.e. the moon had an effect on people.
The moon also had an effect on the muse, on women
with three songs he knew with “moon” in the title.
He must have also been amazed by those
wondrous skies in the farm fields of the night,
away from the street lights.

The stars were too far away, and he could
hear the suffering of those nearby,
on Spaceship Earth.

On off nights, he and Ed,
he and one of his wives, must have
looked out at the vast universe.
One could have imagined
that they laughed together, after the party,
after drinks,
wondering about the UFO
they might have seen
over the night ocean.

At times, was Steinbeck not also trying to say that
we were all from the same place,
in a mystery that probably could wait?

Those Amazing Hills: Poem

Fun partly now
to walk through those
dry golden and green California hills.

Sublime, profound,
to remember the past
to imagine oneself
in part of that past.
In those stories:

George and Lennie
walked through these hills
down roads towards an uncertain future.
The Joads saw those
parched places.
They were battled over.

Nice to not really be
a part of these hard tales.
Glad they are remembered

Easier, safer
to be part
of something else,
some other tales;
alone in this country,
in those wondrous evocative hills
which remind us
that we can make