Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I stand before the squall in the crib.
All others in the house sleep deeply.

Too deeply, her parents
for they do not stir
even as squall
becomes tempest.

Though I have two children,
here among the deep sleepers,
I did not know them as infants in cribs
crying out in the middle of the night.

I stand helpless before this tempest,
unsure how to calm the storm,
how to be eye of hurricane.
In this middlenight darkness,
I am unsure of nearly everything.

Everything, except the barren truth
that this gale of an babe
is the closest I will ever come
to babe of my body.

Unlike her diminutive older sister
who is her mother –
small in form, large in stature –
this one is a tank of a girl,
her father’s stout frame in miniature.
Though her hair is the black sheen
that tops her mother’s head
the rest is all Papa:
nose, head, movement lacking grace.

She is the one human being
who most resembles the child
I almost but never conceived.

There is so little I am sure of in the middle of this, or any, other night.

I do not trust myself
to hold this downpour,
for fear I will never let go:
never let go the baby
I thought I’d never meet.

Except here she is
and I, the only one
who can take her up,
who can hold her,
who can calm her stormself,
can give her what she needs.

Instead, I wake her parents.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Sunday, September 21, 2008

to be bread for one another

holy, holy the small edifice
with its creaking floorboards

you left your half century of home,
a pilgrim questing for the true

landing at this truth
full with a riot of flowers

their bepetaled crowns
rising sunward all summer

you said we aren’t meant to be alone

now is equinox
and they descend to soil

to next season’s cacophony
and you seek solace

no longer just in the company of harvest, fallow,
then furrows with portent of could-be and not-yet

not just among old friends whose pluck
you let pull you north in the first place

but in the company of a woman
who is simply smitten with you

a woman who might be,
one day, bread to your bread

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Not Yet Gone

Today I place my wrinkled palm
on my daughter’s shirted back.
She’s dressed in soccer garb,
matching-green everything
adorning a nearly thirteen-year-old body
moving with enviable verve.

My hand passes smoothly
as I stroke her back.
I notice something --
not the thing already gone,
but the thing before
imminent absence:
No undergarment
as sartorial speed bump
to my finger circles of delight
along her shoulder blades.

That day will come:
Gone flat chest.
Gone smoothed fabric.
Gone baby-mine.

So many days
pass unheeded,
but not today.
Today is not
one of those days.

Today is a day
not yet gone.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Letting Go

Forget me she entreats.
I do. Everyday I forget you.
Forget stubbed fingers
never reaching piano keys properly.
Disregard the image your lips parted,
chin raised to meet me.

Let me go she pleads.
I do. Every day I release you.
Release the recollection of hipsway,
let loose skirt’s subtle shadow
of where your thighs meet.

Be done of me she implores.
I am. Everyday I am done of you.
I close the book holding scant keepsakes
of our few forever-days together.

Everyday, I open it anew.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Molten Joy

Crucial is molten joy,

burning me into the ground,

scorching pampass grass

still sharp as ever.

I walk in its midst,

slight nicks at my ankles,

calves and shoulders

sing in the sweat.

Not lullaby, but the blues,

high-pitched, momentary,

til what I’ve done

is walk clear out.

A yellow-throated warbler

chastises as I pass under her.

I can’t tell day or night,

the light is so muddling,

my heart is that open, that hidden,

anything seems probable.

No matter:

I put tongue to wrist,

suck at the sour salt.

Anything probable?

When feet brand

their own footprints,

the only answer is yes.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston