Saturday, July 28, 2007

The How

You can be

one mean bastard --

I didn’t teach you that.

Either you got it

before we met

or it’s fixed in your veins.

Since there’s no way

to prove it,

it’s up to you.

Before you choose,

allow fear

no safe haven.

Sit down and breathe,

long enough to drown the din

with heart-breaking silence.

Or sweat it out:

Splitting wood at subzero

or sitting with addicts in detox.

~ ~ ~

The How is always

more important

than the What.

~ ~ ~

No decision

stays longer than

its own moment.

It is time to choose.

It was time yesterday.

It will be time tomorrow.

That is the unfortunate

nature of this animal,

of your animal.

Deep of your veins

or something you can slough off,

you will have to decide.

Each morning anew.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Friday, July 6, 2007


Grey-muzzled dog sprawls on floor,

well-worn furniture, well-used mess.

All surfaces shrouded with books:

gnostic scriptures, Jesus, wild hope.

Boston accent lilts in each word,

giving away early geography.

There is more in what he speaks.

It is how he says her name.

Over and over, again and again,

with such solid adoration,

such evocative presence.

Yet no wedding ring.

It is the stale air he breathes at his pillow,

the morning coffee he no longer makes.

It is the socks no longer twinned,

laying orphaned on the bed spread.

It is the specter of his gone father,

with all that he left unlived.

It is how their daughter grieves gracefully,

while he ambles in his awkward, intent way.

It is his own skin and his own bones

more dire than before.

It is obvious now, how it hangs on him

like a mourner’s suit coat, wrinkled,

tight in the middle, sagging at the shoulder.

He will pack up this cluttered house and move away.

A full-time parish exchanged for a part-time country one.

It is the chance to realize one persistent dream

with the passing of one three decades long.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Stood Up

Left to read poetry

otherwise too esoteric.

There are worse fates.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Mad Courage

Honoring the 35th anniversary of Daniel Ellsberg‘s

making public the Pentagon Papers.

Who are our daring mystics?

Where are today’s bold seers?

In the midst of this misbegotten muddle,

who are our secret shouters?

Let us go back, nearly two centuries:

Virginia Prophet with visions,

mad courage Turned Nat

from shackled free man to righteous rebel,

yet it was a failed insurgency.

Nearly three decades passing: Harpers Ferry.

Brown’s mad courage against slavery

hallowed that river confluence, but

his zealous raid failed as well.

Yet eventual Abolition was made


Like Daniel’s mad courage,

a full century later, making Papers public,

then published under penalty,

hastening the end of a different brutality.

Let us know that lonely lunacy.

Let us wade these wild waters.

Let us decry deadly deception.

Let us stand here, let it be now.

Let us make mad courage.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston