Years: 1997, 1998
BiographyBrandon 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
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