Monday, May 28, 2007

Chamberlain's Umbrella


Iconic image: Chamberlain’s furled umbrella,

triumphant return from Munich.

Even now diplomats refuse to carry one,

as if distance from a symbol is enough.

I vote for distance from the thing,

not from the thing standing for the thing.

But isn’t that just so twenty-first century?

Seduced by association, by smarmy flattery & slick promises?

We buy the toothpaste, fast car, breast implants,

pornographic magazine, presidential candidates.

We consume, in hopes we can not only have, but be,

what we see: surface reflection lacking integrity.

One of far too many misguided talismans

into whose power we place our human destiny.

I say, umbrella or not, furled or otherwise,

let us turn our faces upwards.

Let it rain.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sharp Shadows

I want desperately

to bathe you in Blessing,

in Light that disperses

these sharp shadows.

I wish I had the

Fundamentalist’s conviction,

finding sure measure

in your suffering.

A Pentecostal’s belief

in the ability to cast out

the devil afflicting you.

If it could make the difference,

I would devote myself

to Rigid Dogma:

Safe passage not only

for your corporeal self,

but your young soul.

It would become

my only dedication,

my only worship,

my only vocation.

I would have

no other gods,

no golden lamb,

no false idols.

I would not be this

helpless novice

blind mendicant

pseudo protector

mouthing promises of

keeping you safe.


only you

can keep.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Man of Grand Stature is Gone

His wide-eyed granddaughter:

caramel skin, proper yellow dress,

first set of heels, just an inch

off the ground.

She sits in the front pew

with her worn grandmother:

now widow, wiry hair wild.

Arms wrapped around each other

for dear life.

Her gaze fixes on the bereft friend,

as she hears him call out her name.

Ten-year old eyes impossibly wider still.

In this sea of magnificent witness,

they exist only for each other.

He beseeches her to remember:

she nods earnestly. Over and over,

as he tells us what she meant

to her grand Papa.

Does she know to what she assents?

Not entirely, but she intuits.

Though partial, it is enough.

And perhaps better.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Monday, May 7, 2007

Chaste (and Not)

A book,

Binding tight,

Shelved among dust and mold,

Unread, might as well be unwritten.

Fiddlehead fern,

More rust than green.

Its curl a violin carved of oak,

No verdant expanse waiting to unfold.

Wooden joint

masterfully coupled,

Years of straining against each other,

Producing a mortar of pressured stability.


the way I mean to bring my tongue to your groove.


the way I intend to fiddle the fern of your longing.


how I’ll crack your binding & read your pages ragged.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

This Us

Our weight shifts back, forth

Each forward motion contorts, progresses

Hard to taste, touch, tell

Which is which.

Three years and more

We have been playing at

This way love inhabits, inhibits.

Each action conceals, reveals

Some edge, perimeter, border

Dissolving, erecting,

This space, this thing,

This us.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston