Sunday, July 27, 2008

Twilight Offer

Isn't every twilight

a resignation, an offering?

Mosquitoes buzzing

not merely

pitiful existence,

but also

no separation:

my blood,

their lifeline.

Each red swell of itch

remnant of our joining.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Deftly Hearing the Music

I delivered a homily (the word I use to describe a brief sermon) as part of an intergenerational chapel service on Star Island last night. You can read the homily by clicking here. The homily is built in large part on a Pulitizer Prize winning article, which can be found at this link.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

rapid fire posting

it's not that i've had some great unblockage of writing energy and all of a sudden, here is a multitude of hot-off-the-press poems. nope. i'm just cleaning out some computer poetry files from the past few years, stuff that i hadn't been ready to post for one reason or another. so though it may look like july 13th, 2008, will go down in the history books as karen's most productive poetry day ever, it is a farce, an illusion. just enjoy the stuff (or not)... KJ

The Morning After

This is how I will pay.

Not with insidious STD,

unplanned procreative outcome,

nor tremulous hangover.

Not even with

will-you-respect-me-in-the-morning shame

at just how and where and when

and how loud.

No, for the rather lively late night,

I will pay

with the steady stream

of grating utterances

otherwise known as

reasonable questions

from my loving,

world-curious children.

Ahhh ! That one could fuck all night

and not be too tired to parent in the morning.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Again & Anew

I would like to do, again & anew,

What we did & didn’t yet do.

On top, below, askance, askew:

All about me, all about you.

Unexplored territory, the tried & true.

I would like to do it all again & all anew.

Not too many tricks; just a few.

Perhaps a new stance, a different view.

I’m being candid; my words are true:

I want many more, not just a few.

Toes a tangle, clothes all strewn,

The motion, the moan: in sync, in tune.

Let’s not wait ‘til the day is through.

Let us go, without further ado.

All again & all anew, I would like to do

what we did & are about to do.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Juxtaposition of the Tenderest Kind

I wrote this a few months back and it refers to an incident one year ago nearly exactly. The fact that I am considering posting this -- having never considered it before -- is a sign to me of healthy distance from an intense moment of suffering for me and my loved ones. Blessed be for that. KJ

The night after

my beloved boy


scraped skin

from his flesh

The night after

he ran from home

the first time,

me raging

at the unbidden cop

who spooked him away,

me crying hours


The night after

he sat tight-lipped

in the well-past midnight ER,

obstinate in the face

of the social worker

a kind man, a sweet friend, made love to me.

Never before.

Never since.

Never again.


How devastatingly urgent this compulsion --

this can’t not --

as I rummage through my bag

which is acting all passive aggressive & withholding,

like I don’t know all it does for me:

lets me carry unnamed & uncountable detritus around.

Sitting next to me, in the supposed-to-be hushed pew

my dear friend -- also a writer --

knows just what I’m jonesing for.

She dives into her own voluptuous sack:

unzipping resounds in the great hall,

loud the crinkling paper,

for what seems like the rest of the service.

At last, I see success on her face.

She extends to me her open hand:

in her supple palm,

not the sought-after pen or pencil,

but a pristine tampon

that nearly interrupts the sermon

with our mischievous delight!

(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Perfect, Where I Am Not

My friend admires

her daughters' lithe bodies

while cursing her own,

all hip, belly, & thigh.

She remembers too well

how she once looked like them,

more twig than trunk.

Though there is grief when I behold

my daughter's burgeoning shape,

knowing I had nothing to do

with its creation,

I also feel relief.

It is not that I think her perfect,

where I am not.

I know acne will scar her.

Lack of symmetry will follow her.

Body hatred is female legacy

not even pure motherlove

can fully displace.

It is just so much easier

to love her flaws over my own.

Karen G. Johnston

Thursday, July 10, 2008


It doesn’t roll off the tongue.

A poet friend suggests excising it,

since stumbling is a sign

of wrong word choice.

Yet inexplicable belongs in a poem.

Belongs in every poem.

Is a poem, in and of itself.


It’s why I bother to put pen to paper.

It’s the reason for ragged keyboard rhythm,

late night blue screen blanching my face.


How we rise each morning,

instead of burying our heads

under bedcovers,

sewing them shut.

Why we keep on

welcoming babies

with bone-deep joy

to this sordid world.

How we fill burlap sacks

with grit and gratitude,

our hands shredded

as we drag one over the other.

How we refuse the daily pull

towards greedy dark,

keeping at least one toe,

some of us whole torso,

in the light.


It’s what makes a poem

worth writing, worth reading,

worth flooding the world

with redundant, flawed attempts

at explanation.

It’s just the way it is.

There is no other way.

Stumbling every time,

practice or no.

Just part of the bargain…

the unavoidable,




(cc) Karen G. Johnston

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I am rumble strip, waking you
from lethal lethargy.
I am flaked salt
among heaped ashes,
left for void
but lush with promise.

I am precious, not convenient.

I am leech, seeking blood
among folds and hollows
your skin holds
but you cannot reach.

I am precious, not merciful.

I am eventual saturation,
but not til you yearn to drown,
beg for the more that is me,
bittersweet on your tongue,
trembling against your mouth.

Your body is hidden hush.
I rock you with reckless rush.
I lurk, I loom, bring you full bloom.

Your body has wisdom only I can distill.
You had inkling of this until we met;
now you have urgency.

I am precious, not satisfying.

(cc) Karen G. Johnston