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Site design: Skeleton

Sample Poems by Terry S. Johnson


29 1/2 Days


Before consonants, before vowels,
marks on wood, on bone, on cave
walls. Petrified, fossilized, faded.

Time to forage, to fornicate,
but when to migrate, to fish,
to feast without fear of famine?

Woman carries a calendar
at center, the egg's monthly
exit spectacular. Man cannot

bleed like this and survive.
When her flow does not
return, her belly swells.

Man searches for other signs.
The celestial count begins.
Sun scars the eyes' acuity

and weakens them for hunting.
Hail, Moon! Your mountains
and maria marvelous to behold!

Estimate the exact day of fullness,
followed by shadow's curve.
A reckoning, a calculus, Newton

had not yet conceived. Keep track,
carve lines. Friction sparks intelligence,
fires the mind. Millennia later

we tap words on plastic keys,
unaware of north from south,
gibbous from crescent or croissant.

We melt grandfather's pocket watch
for gold, honor an invisible atom's
pulse. Cesium's ceaseless sashay.


A Kind of Measurement


Night descends before day's labor grasps
fruition. We faintly see what our hands
need finish, scream of sinew stretched
in fatigue. Such bounteous weeds, such
meager harvest, sustenance scant.

At first we appreciate the breath of darkness,
cool against damp brow. Then fears force
the blood faster. Nothing warms our lone sleep.
Harsh words hover above the rafters' thick dust.

Not even the sky's crystal on this clear
eve can reflect calm, elucidate pain.
How fortunate we do not sense the Earth's
spin - its path predictable, its speed fierce.



New England Synthetic


Exposed stonewalls crumble the past labors
of colonists to clear the land and stake their claim
against Indian and each other.

Rusting barbed wire skirts the legs of ancient maples,
red buds the bruised fingers of stubborn farmers,
the chaffed hands

of their exhausted wives. Not enough! A new
white fence, bright as a Kentucky morning, costumes
the land, now stables for the horses

of giggling girls in smooth velvet-trimmed hats.
The slats' slick woof an affront to the rough warp
of trees maturing outside the boundary.

Footprints from their plastic riding boots press
into spring mud. Impressions disappear as quickly
as soft moccasin, worn sole.



November Hunter's Moon


Full moon after harvest. The cold crisp
light brushes red the edges of dark blue
shadows, leafless trees in early snow.
Crust and mantle mute to human pursuit.
This evening, an electorate snared, rebels
captured. Yet, strange beauty, this alien
night, conjures a past of sinew, of bone,
of Algonquin hunting. Crunch of dead
leaves underfoot. Hiss of swift arrow,
an almost-silence before the screech
of wild turkey, moan of lone deer,
a rabbit's last breath. Next day, a fire's
fragrance, a satisfying stew. Bellies full.



Two Sea Suns and Star-gored Knights


Fall's over
finally fallow
for all's
a flash
of swords
on false flesh.
Fa la
la la la.

Autumn's
all day lush
weather
gives sway
two knights
awe roar, uhs.
All tombs lead
to w-inter.