Issue 14

Poetry: Marci Johnson


        A rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into
        parts, each of which is … a reduced-size copy of the whole.


Love, the thought you forgot, the dream.
        Might be the sun,
the smallest part. Maybe the tender rain,
        the mind of God,

divine law. You waited by the elevator,
        didn’t want to stop. Your lips
closer so that one breath. And the tall, full storey
        windows, beloved winter sky.

Think: I will press myself against. Write
        the poem in which everything
will be contained. Watch the color come back.
        Like: the paintings, the words

we heard in the gallery before we slipped away. “This might
        be heaven,” I heard you say, and
“which direction?” Shading your eyes. The way
        the crow flies. Lost

but not lost, being the object or thing so liked,
        the pattern that is not fully seen
but might be the basis for all being. Not like:
        the old love, the stranger

in the other room. Disembodied voice.


As for a parent, child. Turns on the light at night,
        deep affection. Hearing your son
in the background his small, sweet voice.
        Then, bodies in the moment. Desire.

Other languages have more than one word.
        The love of one’s neighbor. The love
of books. Would you like to see a movie, love?

        Perhaps, but tell me, what exists

when you are not here? Fractured
        words. Birds on the shore.
Your voice on the phone wanting more
        and more. Remember,

lying on our backs, the ground warm. And,
        your face in the cold
blue light, the screen blinking off
        and on. It is too irregular

to be easily described. Like the sky
        the infinitely complex clouds.
The kiss, the embrace. The face of god, hidden
        like the poem

I was writing in the dark


each piece like the others: self-
        similarity. Narcissus in the water
braiding his hair, his face a cloud. The cloud
        the shape of the eye. The shape

of the bird, space-filling curve. Love:
        being everywhere continuous
but nowhere differentiable
. The shadows
        over water, the flight;
second sight. The emotion of strong affection.

Its shape is not quite.

Salvation at the Book Fair

All the available thoughts
have already been thought.

All the words put together
into every possible combination.

What more is there to say?

This is a comfort. Salvation:
protected from harm.

When I enter the room,
altars everywhere.

Long tables draped
with the colors of liturgy:

purple for the kings who run the fair.
Blue for the school that can make of you

a priest of words. Green
for beginnings – Jesus

risen from the dead,
the hard work over?

Every book is a prayer,
and just as in church I want

to pray the prayers of others
rather than my own –

Almighty and most merciful father/
so much depends upon/those things

which I ought to have done.

There must be something more to say.
Make it new, I am instructed. But

when I put my pen to paper only
the words of others arrive.

Salvation: preservation.
There is nothing new under the sun.

This is not a church. Still, I hold
my breath. Tread lightly. Look for the poem,

the one that will save me.

Altitude Sickness

I said I was not convinced the mountains
    on the way from the airport were real.

This might have been during lunch, the sandwiches
    making us sad. What

did I have to drink? Probably water,
    anything bland.

You spoke about your past loves, making each bite
    of your sandwich an exclamation point.

Across the table your body tense with some
    sharp song. Blade

through backbone. You couldn’t
    sit still. Did I want to make a moment of this?

After lunch, the sidewalk loud.
    I lost you in the crowd.

Highway, Animal

Not quite spring
those stubs of leaves, finger
print cloud smudge

the earth remembering
what we, have forgotten.

In the car, metal on metal on
rubber – road, highway
crawling along the spine

the earth hunched, half-smile half
wishing he would call.

Take the next sharp
right turn. Remember,
you’re going home.

Remember the caterpillar
of smoke in the sky

the one that looked so real
you almost cried.