VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Michael Lee Johnson

Poets Out of Service (V6)

Like a full-service gas station

or postal service workers

displaced, racing to Staples retail

for employment against the rules of labor,

poets are out of business nowadays, you know.

Who carries a loose change in their pockets?

Who tosses loose coins in their car ashtray anymore?

iPhones, smartphones, life is a video camera

ready to shoot, destroy, and expose.

No one reads poets anymore. 

No one thumbs through the yellow pages anymore.

Who has sex in the back seat of their car anymore,

just naked shots passed around online?

Streetwalkers, bleach blonde whores,

cosmetic plastic altered faces in the neon night;

they don’t bother to pick pennies

or quarters off the streets anymore.

The days of surprise candy bags for a nickel

pennies lying on the countertop for

Tar Babies, Strawberry Licorice Laces

(2 for a penny), Wax Lips, Pixie Sticks,

Good & Plenty are no more.

Everyone is a dead-end player; he dies with time.

Monster technology destroys crump fragments of culture.

Old age is a passive slut; engaging old age

conversations idle to a whisper and sleep alone.

Matchbox, hand-rolled cigarettes,

serrated, slimmed down, and gone.

Time is a broken stopwatch gone by.

Life is a defunct full-service gas station.

Poets are out of business nowadays.

Deep in my Couch (V2)

Deep in my couch 

of magnetic dust,

I am a bearded old man.

I pull out my last bundle 

of memories beneath

my pillow for review.

What is left, old man,

cry solo in the dark.

Here is a small treasure chest

of crude diamonds, a glimpse 

of white gold, charcoal, 

fingers dipped in black tar.

I am a temple of worship with trinket dreams,

a tea kettle whistling ex-lovers boiling inside.

At dawn, shove them under, let me work.

We are all passengers traveling

on that train of the past—

senses, sins, errors, or omissions

deep in that couch.

Nightlife Jungle Beat,

Bar Next Door (V2)

Like all thing’s life changes, its melodies fragment.

It breaks pieces apart, then they drift, then shatter.

The singers of songs love bars,

naked bodies, consistencies, and inconsistencies

that makes it burn all turn outright at night.

They like to drum repeat rhythms and sounds.

Poets like to retreat to dens

of pleasure just like these.

Sing poets sing off-key

free verse notes down by the bridge,

near the river as far as their voices

will carry them away.

It is the nature of difference,

indifference a vocabulary of us confused,

minds between insanity and genius.

The hermit asks for

a public forum in shyness,

while treading to the bar

next door for a shot of tequila

no money, no life.

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