Posts for June 19, 2016


Kumquat or Quince

Do I know
the difference 
between a kumquat 
and a quince?
I thought they
were the same
or near cousins,
but one is orange-like
the other pear-like.

I have a distant
memory of kumquats:
a strange aroma,
rot in the yard.
Irregular orange eggs,
why is it
that I never 
gave you a try?
– Jessica Swafford 


Heat Consumes Her

In the summer 
my mother stops
eating most things
somehow survives on
fruit flavored ice cream
or sherbet from cones
so as to not
dirty a bowl
Raspberry sherbet 
is her favorite
but peach ice cream
with real fruit chunks
will do
She can’t help it.
The heat consumes her.
She’s only trying
to fight back.
– Jessica Swafford 


A Daughter’s Translation

you spoke Provision
never hitting snooze, not once
perfect attendance
every year, dialect
thick with love and southern drawl


Concert in the Park

Intermission. The short, sharp hiss of a cigarette landing in a beer cup. Wind sounds through the open fretwork of a microwave tower, a ghost ship’s rigging. There’s a coil of wire hanging from one spar like a spit curl or an afterthought. Is that why I’m thinking of you? It’s not as if we were ever here together, or someone in the crowd looks like you did thirty years ago. Wisps of cloud pass the full moon. The chords they sound mimic those of the tower as they drag along the face. 


Church Basement

                                          Church Basement

It’s where I learned to back-slice
a ping pong ball,
the orange paddle
skimming the ball’s surface
careening it
in a devilish arcing spin,
a trick I learned from my uncle
fresh-faced in his uniform
just returned from Germany,
now speaking in an accent
foreign to our ears.

It’s where, alone with my boyfriend,
pressng tight against me
had wet the front of his pants,
going to the kitchen to wipe off,
my young ears uncomprehending
his Baptist apology.

We played spin the bottle 
in a church classroom
our teacher there watching.
From the wooden case
next to the Coke machine,
we took an empty bottle,
spun it on the grey tile floor.
When it stopped,
pointing to a cute boy,
we thought it daring to kiss long
on the lips with everyone watching.

In another classroom
alone in the silence, I knelt
kissing the wooden seat
of each chair
so I’d be sure to kiss
the one on which my boyfriend sat.

Sometimes men would hide
in the steeple with guns
shooting pigeons
who littered the steps
with liquid white.



Adhesive evolution

after bottles and pots
and paddles and jars
and brushes and guns
and tubes, glue has finally
found the form it was always
meant to take:



Mindful Men

Mindful Men:

Choose your battles, 
And you’ll always win. 


Hovering Parent

Yesterday, you added bacon and bagels to the shopping list.
That evening, you forewarned me,
“I’ll be making breakfast tomorrow.”
Typically, we don’t see you before lunch.

This morning, we’re having coffee on the porch
when you appear: “Can you show me how to use the stove?”
Later, you demonstrate your technique, “Is this how you crack an egg?”
I am unable to articulate the difference between a pot and a frying pan.

In no time you deliver two egg and bacon sandwiches
with blueberries and raspberries on the side, handing the plates to us
with a flourish. Delicious! You join us for breakfast,
leave to clean up the kitchen, ask what to do with the grease.

I hover between telling you what to do and letting you figure things out,
understanding that before long you won’t be asking me many more questions.



a fatal coincidence
that death should pay for life
– –
a twig pushes up
underneath paws imprinting
trails upon the ground,
the housndstooth cobblestone
encircles the homestead where
ants march two-step
over picnic tables and
wrought iron rope
         [[ they took, in their sepia tones
         motions to bind , in chains, the triune
         back together,
         using time, sun and
         a little luck
         to no avail: the split
         could only be bridged,
         not mended ]]

to separate islands of bark
and sticky sap
in search of food for
their communal future
while blades rustle in tempo
with the breath of the unknowable
in fields and kempt lawns
shorn sharp enough to
tickle the barefoot feet
of the claimants of the land
running in joyous fright–on the
occasion of a wedding–from
the slobbering jowls of raucous canines…

– –

alerted to the antannae
of a foreign passenger
on my person
I am reminded that likewise I am
a traveler with no innate knowledge
of my port or my terminal,
only sure of the dirt underneath
each step.


Chester Johnson, Poem Eleven

Poem 19, June 19 to be read down–not across after line break

Chester Johnson, Poem Eleven

Thanks for the fruit basket.                      the Twin Towers
I appreciate the off                                      brought down
of dinner.                                                       by a new enemy.

It’s Father’s Day.                                           Two planes,
I’m waiting for my daughter                    direct hits
to come from Tennessee.                          exploding.

I’ll eat a banana                                            I watched
before she comes,                                        smoke–
and to answer your question:                  saw

Was I ever afraid?                                        people
I was trained                                                 abandon
not to have feelings.                                   ship,

Yes, just like a doctor                                 f
as an intern learns                                     a
to deal with death.                                      l

Kamikazes                                                    l
were a staring                                              i
of death in the face.                                   n

I didn’t think                                                g
I’d feel that tight                                         ahead
gut-wrenching                                            of that

determination                                             terrible swift
to live again                                                  sword. I’ll eat
until I watched                                            that banana now.