Monday Jun 24

JohnsonLuke Luke J. Johnson is a poet who lives on the coast of California with his wife and three children. His poems have been published in the Asheville Poetry Review, Greensboro Review, San Pedro River Review, and others. He is currently completing his MFA in Poetry at Sierra Nevada College.



There has to be sea, gunmetal sky. There
have to be gulls plucking flesh from beached seals
and carrying carcass to their young. A drunk

woman stumbling in head-high surf. There has
to be kite string snapping when the line lets out.
A boy’s cry. A mother’s sobering concern.

A father from a distance with a cigarette.
His one hand strangling the neck of a Coors,
the other rested flat on a dog with skin disease.

There has to be a black umbrella. Always an umbrella.
Even when it’s warm, an umbrella. A feeling
like an umbrella. A sadness like sand in the gums.

There have to be fallen palms trees, bark
stripped clean by homeless. Burn barrels.
Braided smoke. A fight. A drunk woman

stumbling in head-high surf. A father from
a distance with a cigarette. One hand strangling
a neck. The other carving script in a dog’s

shattered spine. There has to be a moon,
red sickled, and a wind that deadens,
the way breath deadens, when cloaked

with blood, so much fucking blood.
And this boy. Frightened boy. Digging, digging.
Charting a route, from here to someplace in Heaven.

—Bali, Indonesia

I wore the white batik and flat sandals
and walked the jungle road looking for the pillar with the bell.

I happened upon a blind woman throating guttural 

like my friend Jack that night at church
when his jaw unlocked and
eyes rolled back

and every evil snapped
inside his barreled chest

causing his voice to froth and throb  
and sinew fat blue and veiny

like the woman begging the invisible  
to twist out from gypsum sand 

and braille along the bamboo floor  
a warning about my future:

No go here. You, no go.
Winds do bad things.

Ramda come clicking from sugar cane,
howl inside your blood.

Give me money Luke
though I never told her my name.