VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Michael Lee Johnson

Showers & Rain

I’d like to see you in showers,

shadows, memories, final hours

that end this rain.

Daisies reveal your simple secrets,

yellow perverted pleasures, complicated,

often unseen mysteries like

COVID-19 virus.

Forget your sins & dance with me.

All petals at some point fall

in season come to despair

same as a desperate ending.

I focus on memories now

represent all short stories shared,

a poem or two no one will remember,

a Hemingway legacy funeral,

one family member,

one suicide at a time. 

Death Certificates

We all wait for our death certificates—

aging bodies, sagging arms, necks with wrinkles.

We drag our bodies around shopping malls

in all shapes, funny forms, walk

around in tennis shoes early mornings.

Don’t stretch out here too far.

Just get our groceries, see our grandchildren,

Lucky Charms, no witchcraft, but Jesus

finds our way home.

Kansas, Old Abandoned House 

House, weathered, bashed in grays, spiders,

homespun surrounding yellows and pinks

on a Kansas, prairie appears lonely tonight.

The human theater lives once lived here

inside are gone now,

buried in the back, dark trail

behind that old outhouse.

Old woodchipper in the shed, rustic, worn, no gas, no thunder, no sound.

Remember the old coal bin, now open to the wind, 

but no one left to shovel the coal.

Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hayrides all gone.

Deserted ghostly children still swing abandoned in the prairie wind.

All unheated rooms no longer have children

to fret about, cheerleaders have long gone,

the banal house chills once again, it is winter,

three lone skinny crows perched out of sight

on barren branched trees silhouetted in early morning

hints of pink, those blues, wait with hunger strikes as winter

that snow starts to settle in against moonlight skies.

Kansas becomes a quiet place when those first snowfalls.

There is the dancing of the crows−

that lonely wind, that creaking of the doors, no oil in the joints.

Kansas, Old Abandoned House 

House, weathered, bashed in grays, spiders,

homespun surrounding yellows and pinks

on a Kansas, prairie appears lonely tonight.

The human theater lives once lived here

inside are gone now,

buried in the back, dark trail

behind that old outhouse.

Old woodchipper in the shed, rustic, worn, no gas, no thunder, no sound.

Remember the old coal bin, now open to the wind, 

but no one left to shovel the coal.

Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hayrides all gone.

Deserted ghostly children still swing abandoned in the prairie wind.

All unheated rooms no longer have children

to fret about, cheerleaders have long gone,

the banal house chills once again, it is winter,

three lone skinny crows perched out of sight

on barren branched trees silhouetted in early morning

hints of pink, those blues, wait with hunger strikes as winter

that snow starts to settle in against moonlight skies.

Kansas becomes a quiet place when those first snowfalls.

There is the dancing of the crows−

that lonely wind, that creaking of the doors, no oil in the joints.

 Jasper 

 Old Irving Park,

Chicago neighborhood

Jasper lives in a garret

no bigger than a single bed.

Jasper, 69, clouds of smoke

Lucky Strike unfiltered cigarettes.

He dips Oreo cookies in skim milk.

Six months ago 

the state revoked

his driver’s license-

between the onset 

of macular degeneration,

gas at $4.65 a gallon,

and late-stage emphysema,

life for Jasper has stalled out

in the middle lane

like his middle month

social security check, it is gone.

There is nothing academic about Jasper’s life.

Today the mailbox journey is down

the spiraling stairwell; midway,

he leans against the wall.

Deep breathes from his oxygen tank.

Life is annoying with plastic tubes up his nose.

Relief, back in the attic, with just his oxygen tank,

his Chicago Cubs, losers, are playing

on his radio, WGN, 720 AM.

Equipment, enjoyment at last,

Jasper leans back in his La-Z-Boy recliner.

He reaches for a new pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Jasper grabs a lukewarm Budweiser beer from his mini-fridge.

Deep breathes, a match lite, near his oxygen tank.

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