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.