‘December’ by Michael Miller explores the feeling of wanting to return to past situations. Miller especially discusses a parental relationship, with the poet wanting to temporarily return to that childhood bliss in which there was a lack of pressure. ‘December’ simultaneously relates to the idolization of parents and points to the difficulty of daily life. Sometimes it would be nice to not be in control for a minute, to truly relax.
‘December’ by Michael Miller begins with the poet stating that he wants to ‘be a passenger’ again. This relates to the context of driving in a car, but also can represent parental control on a metaphorical level. Miller is suggesting that he wants to return to those childhood days in which he didn’t have to control his own life, simply being a ‘passenger’ and enjoying the journey. There is a deep sense of calm within ‘December’, with Miller exploring the support that a parental figure can provide.
You can read the full poem here.
Miller’s ‘December’ is split into four stanzas, each measuring four lines. Although there is no rhyme scheme, the poem is intricately structured. The reoccurring quatrains structure, which is never deviated from, could be a representation of the support system that a parent provides, Miller idolizing his parent and desiring to return to a more carefree past.
One technique that Miller employs within ‘December’ is enjambment, lines frequently flowing on to the next without a punctuation break. In doing this, Miller allows the verse to flow freely, reflecting his own desire to relinquish autonomy in his life. The lack of control at the end of each line represents Miller’s own desire to give up control, to be converted once again into a ‘passenger’, someone else dictating his direction.
Another technique that Miller uses when writing ‘December’ is repetition. The first and last stanza bears a large portion of repetition, with the first and second lines echoing across the poem. In doing this, Miller creates a sense of embarking on a cyclic narrative, perhaps reflecting his desire to return to his carefree childhood. The poem repeats, with Miller seeking to repeat segments of his own life.
Analysis of December
I want to be a passenger(…)while you sit at the wheel,
‘December’ begins with the personal pronoun ‘I’, Miller instantly suggesting the poem will engage with his personal emotions, relating to his thoughts and feelings. When coupled with the verb ‘want’, Miller insinuates that this is something he desires, but does not yet have – or perhaps cannot have – the lack of certainty in the present tense creating a nostalgic tone.
Miller’s desire to return to being ‘a passenger’ suggests he wants to give up the control he has over his own life. The image of ‘passenger’ directly relates to being inside the ‘car’, allowing someone else to drive the vehicle. Yet, this can also be understood as emblematic of the poet giving autonomy of his life over to someone else, becoming a ‘passenger’, and letting someone else decide his direction and future in life. There is a sense of comfort in this relinquishing of power, as suggested by Miller ‘shut my eyes’, immersing himself in trusting darkness.
The use of pronouns within ‘your car’ and ‘you sit’ further the insinuation that his life is now in the control of someone else, Miller taking comfort in this fact. The change of power is relaxing, even the other person in the poem in a ‘sit[ting]’ position.
awake and assured(…)on the road ahead,
This sense of calm extends across the opening of the second stanza, the assonance throughout ‘awake and assured’ lulling the poem into a comfortable daze. Moreover, the suggestion of ‘assured’ once again furthers the narrative that Miller trusts the person he is with, being in complete comfort with them.
The image of the driver ‘seeing all the lines/on the road ahead’ at first engages with the extended metaphor of driving the car. Yet, it could also be understood as someone ‘seeing’ into the future of Miller, ‘the lines’ representing trials that the poet will race, steering him safely through. The poet again engages with incredibly comforting images to emphasize a sense of security with this other person.
down a long stretch(…)faces in sight.
The depiction of a ‘long stretch/of empty highway’ again arrives through the semantics of driving, being connected with the sense of a journey. Yet, this could be applied to the metaphor of life, with Miller suggesting that life is a ‘long’ journey. It is only really when we are very young that we are not consciously making our own decisions and heading our own life. Miller desires to give up, temporarily, this autonomy, allowing someone else to make decisions for him during his ‘long’ journey.
The image of ‘empty’ can be understood as polysemous. On one hand, ‘empty’ could be a representation of the lack of opportunities in Miller’s life, an ‘empty highway’ suggesting an unfulfilling life journey. Yet, the opposite could also be true, with ‘empty’ actually allowing for the opportunity to enter the highway – leaving space for, to continue the metaphor, other ‘cars’ that will fill his life. I would argue that this image is more so positive than negative, with the lack of ‘any other/faces’ suggesting that Miller is simply continuing his journey alone for now.
I want to be a passenger(…)in your hands.
The first two lines of stanza four repeat those of the first stanza, echoing the ideas constructed earlier in the poem. Miller desires ‘to be a passenger’ once again, giving up his own autonomy and allowing someone else to take control. This is something that Miller takes comfort in, the daily struggle of life an idea that he wants to temporarily avoid.
The final two lines of the line break the metaphor of ‘car’ and a journey and discuss Miller’s ideas in clearer terms. Instead of the image of being a ‘passenger’, with the attached metaphor being of giving up autonomy, here Miller addresses the idea directly. Indeed, he states that he desires to ‘put my life back/in your hands’, giving control over to another person. The suggestion of ‘back’ means this is a state Miller is already comfortable with, furthering the idea that it is a parent that the poet is discussing. He desires to take a break from the chaos of life, return to being a ‘passenger’, and letting someone else drive the way onward.
The final image of ‘hands’ are incredibly comforting, the physical connection insinuated closing the poem on a positive moment of human intimacy.