Monday, October 22, 2007

Tall is Tremont Temple

On street level just to the left

there is a stone façade,

a carved nameplate streaked

with decades of grime:

Christian Information Center.

Secular Mondays I pass by on foot,

scurrying from commute to work,

later from work to commute.

It is always deserted: no pulse,

no vibrance, no rousing gospel singing

I think must be there on sacred Sundays.

I wonder about this place, ponder its purpose.

Is it an information center for Christians,

full of biblical tracts and assessing glances

to ensure only the righteous access?

Is it a center with information about Christianity,

open to all -- in fact covetous of those

not saved, but might yet be?

I like to imagine it dispensing

all sorts of information

according to true Christian values.

I can just see the swell of humanity

on the early Sunday sidewalk:

Some jockey for position, cutting in line.

Dapper men, women dressed to the nines

tap well-heeled shoes, a rhythm section out of synch.

Young necks crane with curiosity, boredom.

Tattoos peek through the shirts of several women,

while others wear their hijab without worry.

Canes keep more than a few from toppling;

there are at least five barely awake

so soon after Saturday night.

Then there is movement

in the window of the CIC:

A mild-mannered man,

wire-framed glasses,

glowing caramel skin,

the hint of Haitian in his hum.

This sole staffer emerges.

In his hand a jumbled assortment of

gossip, time-saving recipes,

current events, ambitious poems,

dull cartoons, stinging editorials,

advice for frugal travel abroad,

and tips for the stock market.

The crowd hushes.

He walks the line,

appraising them all:

old and young,

able and stumbling,

linen and polyester.

His is an amble relaxed, intent.

He halts, distributes

the collection in his hand:

Of course, it is the meekest

who inherits the information,

the poorest most preferred

for this smattering of earthly news.

Yet it is not only the lamb,

who receives the message,

but also the lion,

and if I’m not mistaken,

there is also enough

for the leper.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Question

When his lithe

teen-aged daughter,

knocked on the door,

on the bolted door,

knocked to say hello,

was he alive?

Was he alive

when she shook the brass knob,

smudged with desperate sweat,

his volatile absence,

as she shook the brass knob

hollow, then heavy in her hand?

Like his older brother,

ten years before.

Just like him,

three daughters,

one and then two

in close succession.

Both men:

failed farmer,

lost land,

gone generations.

Yet not exactly alike:

not the shotgun

his big brother used.

Not how it rang out

in front of family,

abrupt ringing indictment.

Unlike his elder brother’s,

his was prolonged:

addict’s swollen face,

years of slow decay,

next chronic away,

then lonely chemical gone.

Let us tell her

he had already been long dead,

whether we know it or not.

Let us tell her

there was nothing

she could have done.

As we tell ourselves,

there was nothing

any of us

could have done.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Torture Device Otherwise Known as an Elliptical Trainer

Seven minutes into my exercise regime

I am sure I have cancer of the thighs.

After twelve minutes of working out

the evidence is conclusive even though

I’ve never heard of the disease.

Eighteen minutes provides definite assurance,

despite not knowing anyone with the malady.

The proof is as plain as the nose on my sweat-beaded face.

Twenty-three minutes

on the infernal contraption

provides a differential diagnosis:

Exertion Amnesia.

Each and every time

until that lovely endorphin rush

I forget that I will not collapse,

forget that I will survive

forget that not only

did I do this

just two days ago,

but that I liked it.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

My First Mother Poem

One day I will write the requisite mother-daughter poem.

Either the one espousing untarnished admiration

or the deeply embittered exposé

or the enduring ambivalence.

Not today.

FloPoSo Poetry Festival

Today was the third annual Florence Poets Society Poetry Festival, held this year at Look Park in beautiful weather. Over five hours of poetry from local poets! Also, the debut of the second Silkworm, a collection of juried and selected poems. For the second year in a row, my writing was given the label "Poet of Distinction," this year for my poem, Prayer for my Son. I read this, as well as four other poems: In Just That Order (formerly I Don't Write Shiny Poems), He Cannot be Flirting with Me, The How, and I Had Decided Against Saying Her Hair was Beautiful. The 2007 Silkworm contains two other of my poems: Tension and Wanting Willow (a reworking of Mt. Auburn Cemetery, August). My first chapbook, Struck Just So: A Collection of Sensual Poems was available for purchase -- 3 copies were bought! Time to break out the champagne! I know it sounds a bit dorky, but I'm totally thrilled.
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