Read the introduction by guest editor Dana Levin.
'Having Shut the Door On My Extended Facts'
having shut the door on my extended facts
turned my key& told myself that life, this life,
is the tune that sounds thru my instrument;
saying, so often i have aired the ways of a man:
gesturing w/ umbrella, man in brown coat;
man descends a staircase
in a tie w/ cigarette; often, man on park bench;
man w/ black socks looks into mail box …
&i am aware, then, of a certain texture
woven through time: man in yellow jacket;
man offering arm; crook of an old man …
i am aware of a weave my habits have
&see it worn also on men who rise early to read,
beyond the variations that pass thru their hands:
inquisitive man regards a cello stand;
man in red hat holds a box-shape;
man in olive pants lights a match;
hunched man, w/ downcast glance, holds a black hat:
formally attired man claps amidst seated audience;
man in mourning dress presses face into his sleeve;
man in bathrobe dancing …
'It Is So. The Devil…'
it is so. the devil comes thru the noon sun
w/ an off word or passing gorgeous in a black saab,
&it takes nothing, you shall know him,
rising in the blood or as a clump at the back of yr throat,
even hidden, thoroughly white, in the clench of a fist,
or cold cold tact behind a calm sentence,
in the blindness of an open eye's film, a seal for sounds,
&stabbing guts thru the very tips of his toes
&i have heard him sly in a jealous mouth,
&in such a way felt him pass thru myself,
detached w/ a dreadful ambivalence,
&he's a fire upon a man, his accounts, his belly, lips
the devil is a fire of thirst;
&though he shiver through the air which surrounds defeat
he is man-shape most.
'Godlet Ants in Their Herculean Tasks'
godlet ants in their Herculean tasks
&the porcupines smooth in their wombs
w/ slumbering brown eyes veined blue,
the octopus resourceful in his depth
&hummingbirds like ghosts about their business,
the hummingbirds like Elmo's lights,
every brief immortal age of the leaf,
on green buds sing& buds blooming white& green
&yellow-green, sing them sugary& red
or withered like a cripple's hand& barren,
nothing but contours like a girl's hairpin
or caution-orange when the sun sinks,
still, waxy& seemingly dreamed& moth& aphid,
any who'd pay homage or usurp these images
&the lesser things (are there lesser things?)
the molecules boiling w/ energy,
each atom that tributes to my body's sea
or suddenly sets sail from me,
my cones& rods, yr cones& rods collapsing,
our contour& of baser things; pleasure,
argument, graffiti on the streets& walking.
&the scientist sd. i'd be a tube of flesh
scribbled on the map, nearly black in the clothes& hats
i traced& retraced my steps in, the scientist sd. this,
that my life was a jot of flesh;
later i wondered was this figure so abominable,
the series of droplets from the splashes of fish life,
the arcing necks of women in EKGs of sea nymphs
the glassy smooth table of the ocean's face
&so many lips& hands inseparably met,
such a Pollock of birds from north to south,
the smeared photos of Elmo's lights,
the misfocus of its bruised flesh of skies
&crystal sprays of crash, little veins of ants
— a lunatic's only canvas.
'All That Stuffy Stuff, I Can't Stand It'
All that stuffy stuff, I can't stand it;
I'm into breathing and your breath
And the couch's form while you lay and sleep,
All those pains of Alexander's,
&what the Sfrozas did in 15, 14, whatever,
I don't know,
Nor how Homer lived.
Mine are the fires that weaken me,
Suiting me so handsomely, like a cap
To my acorn,
And, really, they all fell in me
And are my responsibility;
I like it when you talk in your sleep.
I have a good memory, this you always tell me―
But I am only the idiot of what happens to me.
'What a Lush World it Is'
What a lush world it is: preparing for events
and exonerating one's self w/ friends
&so many communiqués&
The stamp up, the public transit;
How shall I sit to the right & to the left of me;
How shall I behave?
Summer's in with its southern wind
&everyone gets strange, the days don't end;
porches are nocturnal terrariums
&voices carry like knives thru the evening.
We're all jack-o-lanterns;
Terrifying, fragile faces,
Brief small flames&
All in the head.
'I Have Sat Upon the Café Walls'
i have sat upon the café walls
little but stickish bones, a scarecrow
puffed-up w/ rags, smoking at the mouth
&i have made a machine of myself
that took to emotions as do metal slabs;
i've sat inside me& watched the world, like montage, pass
or've idolized moments past
&cast expectations curse on future events;
i've lost hours& hours at hand to all forms of rest;
in an instant i've gathered up myself& stepped into an ocean current,
&i've stood atop a very very high place
&thought of aether &Augustine, Da Vinci's flying machines;
i've recessed into pills, for months sleeping …
i have nearly dissolved in the shock of a breeze
&i've let my thoughts stray w/ their own seriousness,
have let my thoughts feel contempt for my flesh
&'ve blushed w/ the shame of it.
Because everything, everything is an addition;
nothing is a failure& growing old
is merely a swelling the cup,
a sipping of life
&don't repent; everything becomes us:
every misstep, twig, our guilt, our breath,
as when the bones snap
they marrow back more thick.
don't repent, don't choose a chaplain
when you've regiments. Nobility has several forms
&is not always calm& can have so many questions.
I Am Like Everything
I never had a need for wine in my water jug.
Against all improbability I yawned
& danced and walked my little map.
&, I was wrong to ask what I am
rather than what am I different from
sharing with space its startling depth
& with the alligator, his smile and tooth
& with the bark of trees, coarseness;
&, I wear them all in the deep pattern of my organs
in written words that are older than voices,
in the unceasing chatter of my form;
with the bark I share bitterness,
with water I share sustenance;
I regard everything, I give it a name;
I am unlike nothing.
Christopher J. Johnson is a poet and artist living in Santa Fe, NM. He is a book reviewer for photo-eye Bookstore + Project Space and works as a resident writer for the Meow Wolf art collective. His articles and poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review and The Philadelphia Review of Books.