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Michael Lee Johnson






Poet Staggers Cancels Out the Dark

There is a poem in my heart

a stop-gap love that cancels

the chamber beats.

I can't dismiss the cane I walk with

or the heavy, pounding heart, missing breath.

There are prayers of my past etched

in abuse that I delete pictures about

my brain recycles ruminations.

I can't delete beats or add them.

I'm waiting for the final fall

when the gym whistle around my neck

from grade 8 basketball class squeals

out an Amber Alert for a dying old man.

They say I'm a poet, a word dabbler

dripping sap from an old maple tree

tin can worshiper catching leftover sins.

I face the world left, head-on.

A shot of cheap vodka

drained from an 80 Proof-1.75 Liter

lemon and lime juice mixed in reminds me

of Charles Bukowski's mic and desk

beers lined up for consumption elongated

in order, on the table

those L.A. Street whores, bitches,

fantasies of men past 60.

I can't delete past swear words,

rearrange old events, distinguish

melody from harmony notes

at the Symphony Orchestra echoes

of poor past performances.

Let me gamble what's left: aces, spades.

Joker is bankrupt, my crucified self.

Silence over spoken reflects

quietness nibbling of self.

Candle of My Night (V4)

In the candle of my night

I see you blinking your eyes,

pink with a magnanimous

a vocabulary of mythology,

a Nordic star, shy,

shining in blondness,

resorting, shuffling

back and forth like a

loaded deck of cards,


your lost teardrops

through the years,

your esteem.

Quarter plugger dollar player

jukebox sing-along,

you're but a street slut,

musical bars and chairs.

You stretch your loins

over the imagination of penises

like a condom. Protected, fruit

preserved on your spreading branches.

You wake up with sun tone memories

then the darkness, those mythical

tales and lost poems of the Poetic Edda

or Marvel comics.

You urinate morning dreams,

thoughts, remnants away.

You aren't my first memory—

candle by night.

Chicago (V4)

I walk in a pillow of cinder.

Flames apart from this night still ignite.

I am still determining where I live in a yellow mist,

muddled in early morning white fog.

I lost my compass in a manhole, dumped, dazed in thought.

The L trains still flow on decrepit tracks.

I toss ruminating imagination into Lake Michigan.

A loyalist at heart, Chicago will have no mercy, memory of me.

I will decry my passing and die like the local city

Chicago River rats, raccoon divers, and smog.

Mayor Daley hardly remembers his own name, less mine.

I lie to daybreak in shadow grass.

Sins stick on my body like bee honey.

This old Chicago, Chi-town, grungy streets,

elderly brick buildings shagged out.

Apart from the moors stapling down

luxury boats in the harbor,

let's not be fooled on any night,

Al Capone still rules this town.


With age, my room

becomes small

roots gather beneath

my thoughts in bundles

exits are few.

The purr of romance.

The bark of leaving lovers,

fall leaves in distress.

Animals in the distance

deer's, wolf calls,

birds of prey,

eyes of barn owls

those coyotes.

I see the bridge,

the cross-over line

not far away.

When this ticker

stops, livor mortis

purple is dominant,

all living quarters of the heart.

From here, the dimmed

of dawn twinkles

takes on a new meaning,

not far.

Anticipation (V4)

I watch out my condo window

this winter, packing up and leaving for spring.

I structure myself in a dream as

Moko Jumbie, masquerader

on stilts. I lean out my balcony

window in anticipation.

Dead branches, snow paper-thin,

brown spots, shared spaces.

A slug of Skol vodka,

a glass of cheap sweet

Carlo Rossi rose red wine.

I wait these last few days out.

That first robin,

The beginning of brilliance—

crack, emerald dark, these colors.

About the Poet

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. Today he is a poet in the greater Chicagoland area, IL. He has 313 plus YouTube poetry videos. Michael Lee Johnson is an internationally published poet in 46 countries, a song lyricist, has several published poetry books, has been nominated for 7 Pushcart Prize awards, and 6 Best of the Net nominations. He is editor-in-chief of 3 poetry anthologies, all available on Amazon, and has several poetry books and chapbooks. He has over 653 published poems. Michael is the administrator of 6 Facebook Poetry groups. Member Illinois State Poetry Society:

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