Interior Image

Brandon Johnson

Years: 1997, 1998


Brandon D. Johnson is author of Love’s Skin, Man Burns Ant, The Strangers Between, and co-author of The Black Rooster Social Inn: This Is The Place. He is published in several journals and anthologies, including Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating CaveCanem’s First Decade and The Listening Ear: Cave Canem Poets Look South. Born in Gary, Indiana, he received a BA from Wabash College and his JD from Antioch School of Law. Mr. Johnson lives with his wife and children in Washington, DC.


All poems published in the book “Love’s Skin” published by Word Works. All rights to the poems retained by the author upon publication of the book in 2006.




lust can beat men to mud. some learn

from calm women on cool sheets hard

as day-old grits.

she left a bathroom-wall message in rouge.

he won’t touch his records, bluesmen

telling him what he couldn’t hear before.

somewhere, lips print a cigarette, low tones chase

smoke from her mouth, crawl into the ear of another man.

now, he hears the sound of somebody else’s arm

snaking round the waist of a red dress.




I see her to the left, high-stepping

through a green yard, barefoot

dark and lithe as current-tossed seaweed

and in that moment

when vehicles, music, and minds slow to the

pace of a snail crawling growing grass

my car becomes a sepulcher.

she is young, cool, smiling it

appears for no reason except that

it is morning, and she has mail.

I want to believe that if I get out

dance between bumpers and brake lights

ignore horns and comatose commuters

allow myself to worship on hands

and knees at the altar of

black skin flowing across her swaying

frame, an uncut blade in a field of violets

this saint for wayward eyes would bless

this god awful traffic, would resurrect

this dead morning into something

forever worth seeing every day.


once before I believed this,

sidled across a dance floor

captured a bored woman’s eyes,

laced my fingers with hers,

and never stopped dancing.

but some might think my passion has no pay-off

might think the only thing I gain

from craving this girl is a dull swelling,

heaving breath, an unquenched thirst on

an ocean of buoyed vixens.

but in this same moment

everything tells me move ahead, straight

smooth as Miles doing his thing on my radio

because my adoration is requited by memory

of something I already have, needn’t long for again.

now, the tedium of the commute is gone,

the familiar is disguised as something new,

this central theme,

a young woman’s skin glistening in my side-view mirror

shrinking like a spaceman’s view


of the phantasmic moon as he comes down to earth.

a quintet’s music resounds in my head, tells me that

if I stay in my capsule, I’ll be fine.

reminds me that if I wasn’t married

was twenty years younger

I’d be dumber than a rack of basketballs,


so, drive on.


leave that girl alone to break

the heart of a kid her age

until he grows to be me.




I turn corners hoping to smack into you.

I wait in subways for your escalator-hum sashay.

I save a seat in stadiums yearning

your long fingered caress


when we sit amidst large crowds, the clatter

is a shield around our whispers

as if you and I are alone

the only figures of interest co-habiting

an impressionist’s mottled mayhem.


as if- see…you do this to me: these moments

where I’m a minister marrying word to image

where weary lexes rustled from slumber

become the cast of thousands

for a picture’s worth.


I’m afraid to recite your names, afraid to reveal

a secret identity, force you to hide where

I might see you only out the corner of my eye.

because of our time-to-time kisses, in anger

you’d fix me, banish what I can’t recall

to surf the tip of my tongue forever.


sometimes I fear I’ll invoke the wrong spell

and you’ll move to the neighborhood in my brain

where I’ve been barred

where, if I knocked, you’d hide behind the door

as if I were selling cosmetics

or cosmology.


so I say things that won’t offend

to define you, share only the most public

details with my friends, savor

our moments together like a deep

sweet mug of tea.


I rest my lips on your hem. words high dive


off my shoulder, make small splashes on the page

while you and I lie as old lovers do, amused

we can still break the surface, leave a bead of blood