Luke Johnson

Move in the world, my daughter,

and mirror
the sound a robin makes,
when weaving string

to scabbed branch
but struggling to finish her knot.

Believe me, love
the world is cruel,
and the sky, though silent
filled with terrors, swarming
the swill of your voice.

I am worried.
To tell you this surely
will smother your song,
turn its glitter to soot.

But what do I know?

I walk like one
on ten-foot stilts, afraid
if I don’t the dead will wake,
and make of my breath
a fading impression, a blemish.

That I will be
the thing forgotten,

as days turn over nameless hours
and roll among weeds

like wild harps,
like chalk dust thrown to wind.
O darling,

when I say sit, please stand.
Do not heed my monstrosities.

Run toward silos stitched
with rust

and climb them so
the light which slats, mimics
the rain’s staccato.

Shout loudly, sway
and bare your teeth.

Cry by creeks
where prey seek shelter
and lullaby there.

Ladle the spark
that leaps from their fur
when rifles ravage them low.

Luke Johnson lives on the California Coast with his wife and three kids. His poems can be found in Kenyon Review, Narrative Magazine, Florida Review, Thrush, Tinderbox, Cortland Review, Nimrod and elsewhere. He was a Finalist for the Pablo Neruda Award, and his chapbook, :boys, released with Blue Horse Press in 2019.

Next poem

Previous poem

Winter 2021