Kent Johnson


Boy on the Rocks

At Rhodes, in a steady drizzle, I fade away from the tour

And make my way down the cobblestone street

Towards the harbor until I reach the water's edge.

The drifting clouds obscure the sunlight,

Making the sea the color of the rolling gray sky.

I remove my shoes and socks, roll up my pants

And gingerly step into the cold Aegean sea

Where the freezing water laps against my ankles

And my feet recoil from the hard, sharp stones.

I shiver as I stand here, just another foolish tourist

Desperate for a lasting memory, realizing I am

Merely one of millions who cruise the Greek Isles

In search of history and meaning, mostly from windows

Of uncomfortable buses and at staged dinner shows --

But as the sun breaks through the water sparkles

As if on fire and with its heat on my face -- for just

A moment I feel that I've become history straddling the world,

Head ablaze against the suddenly blue.


The kid

with the ducktails

showboats for

the girls dangling

their bare legs

off the wall

outside the Dairy Queen.

The faded

blue neon

sign buzzes

in harmony

w/ the buzz

of the June bugs.

Two drifters doze

at the edge

of the wheat field

across the road.

One rests his head

on a golf bag

with a putter, a shovel,

a bat

and a nine iron,

Clubs he has caddied

through rail yards

and flop houses all

across America.

Listen Fidel! Listen Hugo!

Its false

to imagine

such failure

swept up in some

organized happiness!

Listen Shafik! Listen Daniel!

See how the hobo awakens

to the laughter of the young girls.

The Day Otis Redding Died

The day Otis Redding died

The women at work were inconsolable.

Orders piled up, unfilled, unloaded.

The drivers, heads bowed, mumbled,

Leaned against the open bays;

Dangled their legs over the loading docks.

The day Otis Redding died

The women were inconsolable.

Betsy was sick and gave me her chicken salad.

Ramona's wails echoed from the ladies room.

Wild eyed, Inez threw herself to the ground

And wept "Oh no! Oh, God, no!"

So stricken were the women

The day Otis Redding died.

Day Trading

Tutankhamen awoke to Ra that shone

Through a ragged dentation of battered stone.

No bath drawn, no shit pot, no oils.

No servants, no taster, no pressed robes,

The pomegranate and apricots spoiled.

No room service, no door man, no concierge.

No chauffeur much less a fleet of ships.

Had the universe overslept?

No. All his treasures had been stolen

And if Tut wanted to see 'em

He'd have to hop the subway

To the Metropolitan Museum.

Pidgin Heart

I be ambivalent . . . .

ono talent

but such a liar

(& no fire

& guile.)

you smile?

not smart.