all material © Taylor Johnson

Above the Plain

from the snowy mountain top i can clearly see the maze those on the plain blindly
     seek to negotiate
so long since i was down there
lost in the forest with warm dirt between my toes
the maze contains material rewards i cannot find here,
perched amid the bare frozen rocks
where i tread paths open only to the noncorporeal.
people in the labyrinth know but physical realms;
responding to hormonal urges and chemical stimuli
they've forgotten the view from here:
shapes formed by the myriad trees
rush of clouds' shadows across the land
reflection of night stars from shimmering black lakes
turns of the seasons as the forest cycles its colors.
the answer to the maze below
so simple from a distant view
continues to elude their groping guesses
as they busily bump their confused foreheads
and i laugh for a moment
until i realize that i'm all alone on my peak
and i file the thoughts
that only occur in the thin high air
hoping to remember just a few of them
as i start stumbling, tripping, running down the hill.

added 12/8/99


The bleachers are packed tonight
Thin shreds of humanity
Watching the show
On the verdant field
Men and women
Battle themselves
Swords slashing
In bloody display
And sometimes one rises
Singing into the heated air
Illuminating the combat below
But the bleachers don't care
Because the beer is cold
And the nachos are getting soggy

added 4/21/01

The Brink

Warrior state careening toward Ozymandius'
      broken statue
Dented fenders falling off the edge
     of maelstrom cliff
The sky is on fire and no one holds
     the wheel

originally published in Poetalk, Berkely, CA

But Can You Sing

Festooned in baubles
She rises shining from magenta fog
Bright like anemic dawn
Across the room she floats;
Wind over water, against a biting squall
Into my face and behind my eyes
Gazing over my precipice
Into eternity (maybe)
She reads the facade of my eyes
In a cracked and misty mirror
Chuckles at my presumed wisdom
And says:
"Yeah, but can you
Sing at Sunday dusk
Like heaven's own banshee?"

added to site 12/9/00


plastic doughboy wanders southern canada in search of a trench.
face pocked with cartouches defying translation.
winter sets in, covering land with frost and wind.
trenches are now hidden.
doughboy stops for rest and does not move until spring.

frostbitten doughboy limps north cursing biggles.
leaning sorely on celtic pikestaff.
early summer melting glacial ice.
rivers flooding over low ground.
doughboy builds canoe and floats aimlessly.

sunburned doughboy sleeps south on mississippi.
pouring balm on searing face.
autumn dropping leaves on land far away.
delta cares nothing of the seasons.
doughboy sweeps into open gulf.

gasping doughboy starves in decaying boat.
cowering against chill.
sharks circling in darkening waves.
boards collapsing on every side.
doughboy drowns in saline bliss.

added to site 9/15/99

Ducks And Men

Mutely laughing through the silence,
The demented man stares out the window.
Abandoned and benevolent,
He hides in the maroon asylum
Watching the ducks that swim in the moat,
Unconcerned with his madness.

No one else sees the taloned hand
Reach for the alleged lunatic
And cut him again in the vocal chords,
So that he can never again explain
To the bustling wreck of humanity
That he is not at all mad, and
That if they would only look into a mirror,
They might realize he could help.

A salesman passes by on a distant sidewalk,
Over a hill and beyond the trees,
And the madman waves,
With a salty tear in his eye,
And the ducks take to panicked flight.

originally published in Alternative Arts & Lit, Hatboro, PA

Happy Girl

Blue girl smiles and
Dances a cute little jig
Welcoming a future she has dreamt of
For years
Suddenly happy as
A starved child
Fed ambrosia
Confronted with bliss
She blanches
And runs away

added to site 9/14/02


I built a monument in my pickup truck
I piled it high with grass and weeds
And threw in a couple of oranges
For good measure
Little balls of duct tape in the corners
Stuck until the end of time
Some brush
And an old mauve T-shirt
Missing sleeves
That smelled like beer,
From the time I made a bartender mad
While he still held a fresh tap
In his hand

I built a monument in my pickup truck
Lawn clippings and old branches
Some ancient empty cat food cans
I'd forgotten to throw away
A globbed up can of motor oil in front
Slick now and for years to come
A dead typewriter
And an old mauve T-shirt
Missing sleeves
That still bore the burn marks
From the time I went to sleep
With a lit cigarette
In my mouth

I built a monument in my pickup truck
Shards of furniture and broken glass
Green hairy stuff that once was food
From a forgotten corner of the fridge
A few dried wadded condoms in the center
Stiff now till the floods return
Some broken compact discs
And an old mauve T-shirt
Missing sleeves
That still was ripped
From the time she left me
With too much anger
In my broken heart

I built a monument in my pickup truck

Wandering Dog

a small dog wanders near a pale creek
wishing quietly for a lost human
whose soul she can still feel
on this side of the wall of silence
knowing that someone on the other side
could answer her question
about a man she would belong with
and she wonders why
as she romped so happily
chasing his thrown toy
he leapt into his truck
and drove away

Wow Chick

The skinny girl just won't shut up
She has too much to say
Now and for the next three hours
Crashing waves on a silent beach
I tell her to mellow out
And I tell her to relax
And I start to tell her to just fucking chill
As I realize
That she's trying to say all this now
Because, goddammit, she's dying
And that's why she's so skinny
And wasting away

And I sit in this non-smoky, non-dank
      Too-clean Suburban American bar
      Where there has never been a fight or a brawl
And the tables don't lean or chip or fly.
No working man has ever come here
To try to drink the heat off his rage,
Only to succeed for a few brief hours
Until the fourth shot of tequila sends him over the edge
And he breaks everything
And everyone he can
In random acts of vengeance

And she's still talking about kids and horses
And living in the country
And a bunch of other stuff I don't know shit about
Breakers crashing on a distant shore
But I listen because I like her
And I don't know how much time she has
Before the emaciating disease
Finally takes all the flesh
From her protruding bones

And I don't care that she doesn't listen
      To any of the words I slip in
      (Though I want to tell her to stop and breathe)
Because she has a lot to say
And not much time to say it
In this stupid and lifeless
Suburban American semi-bar
So I listen
And I listen
And I listen

And on a beach somewhere on the edge
      Of Antiseptic America
Another wave rolls in
The next wave of stormy life
Like the next wave of our one-sided conversation
And I listen
And I listen
And I listen

And maybe sometimes I hear.

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