Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ultimate Snapshots


Leap up.

Flat palms:

snapping jaws.


fall to ground, upstanding.

Twist, then sent disc gone.



One foot cement pole.

The other,

nervy amusement park ride,

centrifuge gone willy nilly.


The cleat offers no assurance:

slip he does

inadvertent limbo

beneath the aloof disc.


Fade. Psych. Send.

No bit of elbow,

just ricochet wrist.




Pound ground.

Disc does not notice.


Surge. Sink. Grace.

Lends itself to flight,

air and gravity’s proof.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Artifact of Provocation, Mischief video clip

On April 12, as part of the Middle-Aged Freaks of the Spoken Word: Poetry from the Gut reading at the Invisible Fountain in Easthampton, Massachusetts I read this and two other poems (also on YouTube). It was a fun night with many poets from the Florence Poets Society reading.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New Same Grief

She does not yet

share my curves.

Nor will she ever.

Another woman’s bodystory

best guesses when first blood

will engorge, trickle, then seep.

She will wear the echo

of some other woman’s body.

Its reverberation is the one

that chimes my daughter’s bodyclock

of egg drop, of bud burst.

It is the new same grief.

Like when I couldn’t name her,

she who came to me

two days past two

and quite already

the whole of her given name.

It is the new same grief.

Like when I had to reply

I don’t know

What was my first word?

When did I learn to walk?

I don’t know how come

she couldn’t be a live-with mommy?

Blood. Bone. Body.

These bounded things

that wither away.

My solace –

large enough,

and more:

though body

may forever

be mystery,

not she.

Not her love.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Monday, April 7, 2008

Murder by Broken Heart

“Gorillas in zoos around the nation, particularly males and those in their 20s and 30s,

have been falling ill – and sometimes dying suddenly – from progressive heart ailments.”

(Associated Press, April 7, 2008)

So many have died.

The newspaper offers

a litany of names:








For their own good

they said.

To save them from lost habitat

they said.

To keep them from poachers

they said.

So that we might protect them

they said.

Heart muscle,

increasingly constrictive.

Halting lifeblood,

increasingly bound.

Over and over again,

pernicious pattern,

zoos all around.

So they invented a big name for it,

all latin cognate, scientific jargon:

fibrosing cardiomyopathy.

Pretense of tragic disease.

Highfalutin, fancy-ass, gibberish.

Who’s kidding who?

We don’t need a poet

working wonders of metaphor

to see that this is nothing but

murder by broken heart.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Friday, April 4, 2008

MLK Jr. haiku

now forty years on
still spring weeps poverty, war
King is dead and gone

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

blind white

blind white, not descending fog,
manufacturing murky mess,
but melting snow
caught upward
on way
to liquid
not nearly

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Poet in Time of War

…except that blood tends to obliterate words.

(The Poem in Time of War by Sherman Pearl)

Visiting from out of town

a local overhears

the reason I am here.

She asks so you’re a poet?

This statement never fails to stymie me.

I do my best to respond,

eeking out the correct gradient of humility.

Unimpressed with my self-involved stammer

she generously remarks

but everyone’s a poet, right?

I know the polite reply

is benevolent laugh,

easy approval

of this naive truism.

I don’t buy it.

Hitler may very well have written

love poems to Eva Braun,

precise in meter, correct Germanic syntax,

but that does not him a poet make.

Radovan Karadžić was published –

children’s poetry no less!

Not so good, I hear, but that matters little.

If there were an exclusive society of poets

he could be safely drummed out.

Though the poet’s tool

is pithy word use,

Dick Cheney’s retorts,

no matter how

pared past essentials,

could never


constitute a poetic


What then is a poet? What then is a poem?

Sherman Pearl says it is a brief on behalf of the living,

a paper megaphone for the voices of the dead.

I say a poet draws a line

with words & images & metaphors,

simile thrown in for good measure.

I say a poet creates possibility

with repetition, alliteration, rhythm.

A poet places a flower

in the rifle’s barrel.

Poets do not waterboard.

Some have been & always will be

soliders in war, but they do not wage war,

they do not rage war.

A poet whispers, states, screams

No more!

Never again!

Not in our name!

A poet may not always use facts,

but always tells the truth.[1]

Poets craft word, after word, after chain of words,

as we step into night seeping around us,

our hearts pulsing crimson fists.

Poets offer what we have. No more, no less.

With uncertainty, out of dire need and with every intention

that no more blood flow in the streets,

that no more words be obliterated.

[1] A quote attributed to Maya Angelou.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston