Michael Lee Johnson


Rod Stroked Survival with a Deadly Hammer


Rebecca fantasized that life was a lottery ticket or a pull of a lever,

that one of the bunch in her pocket was a winner or the slots were a redeemer;

but life itself was not real that was strictly for the mentally insane at the Elgin

Mental Institution.

She gambled her savings away on a riverboat

stuck in mud on a riverbank, the Grand Victoria, in Elgin, Illinois.

Her bare feet were always propped up on wooden chair;

a cigarette dropped from her lips like morning fog.

She always dreamed of traveling, not nightmares.

But she couldn't overcome, overcome,

the terrorist ordeal of the German siege of Leningrad.

She was a foreigner now; she is a foreigner for good.

Her first husband died after spending a lifetime in prison

with stinging nettles in his toes and feet; the second

husband died of hunger when there were no more rats

to feed on, after many fights in prison for the last remains.

What does a poet know of suffering?

Rebecca has rod stroked survival with a deadly mallet.

She gambles nickels, dimes, quarters, tokens tossed away,

living a penniless life for grandchildren who hardly know her name.

Rebecca fantasized that life was a lottery ticket or the pull of a lever.


Charley Plays a Tune

(Version 2)


Crippled with arthritis

and Alzheimer's,

in a dark rented room,

Charley plays

melancholic melodies

on a dust filled

harmonica he

found  abandoned

on a playground of sand

years ago by a handful of children

playing on monkey bars.

He now goes to the bathroom on occasion,

relieving himself takes forever; he feeds the cat when

he doesn't forget where the food is stashed at.

He hears bedlam when he buys fish at the local market

and the skeleton bones of the fish show through.

He lies on his back riddled with pain,

pine cones fill his pillows and mattress;

praying to Jesus and rubbing his rosary beads

Charley blows tunes out his

celestial instrument

notes float through the open window

touch the nose of summer clouds.

Charley overtakes himself with grief

and is ecstatically alone.

Charley plays a solo tune.



Michael Lee Johnson © 2009