VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Michael Lee Johnson

I’m a Riverboat Boy,

Poem on Halsted Street  

As sure as church bells

Sunday morning, ringing

on Halsted and State Street, Chicago,

these memories will

be soon forgotten.

I stumble in my life with these words like broken sentences.

I hear and denounce myself in the distance,

mumbling chatter off my lips.

Fragments and chips.

Swearing at the parts of me I can’t see;

walking away rapidly from the spiritual thoughts of you.

I am disjointed, separated from my Christian belief.

I feel like I’m at the bottom of sin hill

playing with my fiddle, flat fisted, and busted.

So, you sing in the gospel choir; sang in Holland,

sang in Belgium, from top to bottom,

the maps, continents, atlas are all yours.

I detach myself from these love affairs drive straight, swiftly,

to Hollywood Casino Aurora.

Fragments and chips.

I guess we gamble in different casinos,

in different corners of God’s world,

you with church bingo, and I’m a riverboat boy.

No matter how spiritual I’m once a week Sundays,

I can’t take you where my poems don’t follow me.

Church poems don’t cry.

Vodka Omelette

Make it clear in my mind, Jesus,

am I whacked-out on Double Cross Vodka

or have I flipped out calling myself

Limburger omelet chef?

I hate question marks and angels

with crazed wings.

You know the type, John the Baptist

toking weed, stoned out of his mind, storyteller,

foul smells from poor hygiene, eating habits

open mouth, swallowing grasshoppers,

so silky, smooth as sweet honey.

Add 3 eggs in a skillet, Parmesan/Romano blend,

2 cheeses add-on, shiitake mushrooms, turmeric,

chopped kale, hint hot chili peppers, cheers.

Scramble me, I’m cracked.

I rock faith in jungle music, dance nude.

Everything is a potential poem to me.

My omelet, my life, my booze, master cook,



2:38 a.m.

Family Feud


in the rain,


bolt angular lightning

slithers away west.


nanosecond flash

family memories,



tautology fault of style

acerbic chats

daggers in heart these words,


dicey dungeon sharp spike.

A labyrinth, ruined passages,

secret chambers, cellmates, now

for life.

Wind storms move away,

young willow trees natter—

smallest branches, still snap.

I am the Dustman,

Clutter Collector 


I am the dustman.

I am this lazy spirit

roaming, living within you

weaving around your mind,

vulture consuming cleaning

thoughts, space, your slender body.

I feel it all day,

this night alone.

I am your street sweeper,

garbage collector of thought the alternator

village dweller, walkway partner.

I am key door holder to entrance

man, to Summit house.

For years of abuse, I am dust eater.

I hang high outside on lampposts,

edged inside on top wall pictures.

I dim your lights yellow inside out,

ghost inspector.

Inside I roll the house over.

I am a damp cloth, Mr. Clean,

I smooth over, clutter-free,

tick-tock clocks, books,

antique silverware,

pristine future furniture pieces

solid state advances

fragment mistakes etched in mind.

Investigations exacerbate our relationship

unhinged.  My snaking gets me kicked out.

I still remember those piled up old newspapers,

future books, scattered across your

living room floor.

Shake myself, scrape out a new home,

cheaper, exasperated.

I am the dustman; dustpan shakes out.

Published by Mike Zone

Mike Zone is the former Editor in Chief of Dumpster Fire Press and managing editor of Concrete Mist Press. The author of Screaming in the End: Poems and Stories, Fuck You: A Fucking Poetry Chap, Shedding Dark Places (almost), One Hell of a Muse , as well as coauthor of The Grind and Razorville. A frequent contributor to Alien Buddha Press and Mad Swirl. His work has been featured in: A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Black Shamrock Magazine, Horror Sleaze Trash, Better Than Starbucks, Piker Press, Punk Noir Magazine, Synchronized Chaos, and Cult Culture magazine.

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