Two Poems

Poetry / L. A. Johnson

:: Solstice ::

In this bright century, infinity fills
my mouth. I stack blocks of glass 

to recreate the city of my nativity. 

Memory, like the sea, is cold again. 
Breath and ghosts crowd the room.


If invisible, I would curl up
among palm fronds, my body beading

against the green base like a drop
of rainwater. If invisible, I would dream

in the desert’s dry and wild opens.
If invisible, I would sink far down 

near the bottom of an unknown ocean—
to where only ashes float.


Rapture pinks my brain. I forget the weeks
I trafficked in dim happiness,

folding in against a man’s unshaved face. 

In this lifetime, I see error in a hawk’s flight,
the clear circles it makes in the air. 


:: Lull ::

Untouched as a spoon, I wake 
to the sound of your breath

in your throat, like a fox 
fallen to the bottom of a well. 

A great migration, hold and pull me. 


Somewhere, I can settle in a bed
that becomes an island, speaking

against the night-that-has-no-end.

Somewhere in California, water
evaporates from the salt ponds:

one becomes aquamarine, another
magenta. Wonder in their division.  


If I read the letter one-hundred times,

maybe I’ll believe: no more 
looking at almond trees blooming 

beside the freeway, no more 
pillow-talk whispered slow. 

A dream, the weight of silk. This guilt: 
cloud-soft, blueblack, unforgetting. 


From the writer

:: Account ::

These poems were written in quick succession during time spent by the Pacific Ocean when my mind was wandering, unfocused, and loose (a rare thing for me). In writing these poems, I wanted to use that looseness to play with the notion of separation on the page; how the disparate parts of these poems sing their own songs and also link together. Working in such a format allowed me to capture all of the different thoughts and connections I was making as I was working on the poems.

Ghostly feelings haunt these poems as they haunted me, while I walked along the cold shore, the wind chapping my face. The ocean is a curious thing for me: it resonates with me as both life affirming and yet also mysterious, and sometimes disturbing. One of my best friends has a fear of open water, its unknown expanse. I do not fear the ocean, but I understand the fear: the life there, like much of the natural world, is something I will never be able to truly experience. In that sense, the idea of the ocean holds within it the idea of another life: a life not earth-bound, but free and swimming.


L. A. Johnson is the author of the chapbook Little Climates, forthcoming from Bull City Press in 2017. She received her MFA from Columbia University and is currently pursuing her PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California, where she is a Provost’s Fellow. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, the Antioch Review, The Iowa Review, and other journals.