Parachute Game and other works by Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson -- born and raised in Washington, DC (and once alive for 10 years in New Orleans), he has now returned like Persephone to spit in the Eye of the Beast. He sometimes lingers in the Ethers of the Internet to digitally listen and read poetry remotely during the weekly 17 Poets! Literary & Performance Series open mic event.


Parachute Game

on the playground
under the magnolia
a ladybug kicks nervously
in the sparkling dew

to a cacophony of monkey gym giggles
and sliding-board screams and squeaks
and pendulum clatter of tire swings
of the New Orleans public school

on a landfill's dead soil they
suddenly sit Indian-style
in a silent moment
under the floating sky


Mermaid Lounge


You will drown
in this slurring air
of seismic guitars & liquid
violinskins grind
& dance against gravity & rum
scented acoustics
wash away the high heeled plight
of shimmering backs
of sweaty sirens
bathed in street funk under lamp poles & see?
she wears silver lame & velvet green
blows cinnamon scented bubble gum
& her eyes are pillows as she looks you over
as she does calligraphy in the air
sculpting hits of maryjane into sculpture you
will taste her perfume
bum broken
cigarrettes & get
hardly drunk
in this mermaid lounge
full of
our whispers & words
half spoken
half sung.


A Matter of Taste

without this implicitly functional
     explicitly sexual

tapered & flexible sensory organ
     love would be famished

& art lessened beyond comprehension
     agitated in its soft wet bed

it is eager to tie a cherry stem into a knot
     gracefully contrive the proper sounds of persuasion

as it survives waves of red wine & turtle soup
     but it is quite dumb unable to differentiate between

"You're the best!" & "my lips crush against your sky"
     But nonetheless if the Muses are ever slaughtered

surely the poor worm would be better off
     nailed to a post to be pointed at

remembered for the splendor of licking a studded ear
     teasing a salty nipple


Smells Like Weather

Mr. Hawkins was born in the merry shadows of refinery flames, in a wonderland of black puddles and scattered pipes, under a fat delirious moon owned by delicate fingers of cirrostratus clouds. Raised at home with splintered floors and broken windows on a stained mattress he shared a fitful sleep with eight brothers, their elbows and ankles. Son of a drunk of angry love who tasted like secrets and the affections of married women, whose laborers hands chipped an old knife to soothe his mother's desperate demands and made her coo. IIIII plus I of a litter of IIII out of a mother who didn't look at him with her eyes, or laugh or cry for the others. Proper education filled his head with tattered words from obsolete texts, kept him between the past and future but the most he learned he taught himself, for example how to tie Gordian knots and multiply fractions using fingers. The last institution he attended was painted gorgeous red like a polluted sunset where he spent most of his adult life except when he was the master of a white family on a job outside of the city. He spends his days nursing invisible photographs, remembers how to make love to birds with his voice and keep devils away with a jig. Staring into the scarred mirrors of his cryptic palms, he'll suddenly hide in his pockets stuffed with notes & numbers to write on scraps of paper and read library books. Sometimes he leaves his Section 8 apartment to pick up II checks, a tan envelope and another bird egg blue, which he'll cash at the "liqour bank". Sometimes green money makes him think about smoking crack, how after he scored from those kids just a little older than his daughter, he'd walk around until he found a place where people don't go, usually in a field of smashed pennies & refrigerators looking like coffins as he'd sing say "Rats a swimmin in my head an flies a playin in the Campbell's soup but nothins the matter when you're fed" and suck the glass pipe, the rock a lighthouse brightening, humming to himself to keep away another heart attack, that massive beating which teared through his fragile warmth and spit him with a frog's tongue into eternity and back. Just strolling, smelling the weather for omens, he says he's crazy, but that's obvious because Mr. Hawkins is an empty place full of lost objects. When he sits next to you, you'll learn he was young when he sang & danced in church to music grooving on moves straight from God, and he'll tell you that's dog spelled backward.

Written in a Sea Shell

the weight of light is in the anticipation
   of the moon's slow dangling,
         fearless carrier pigeons eat their messages
    under the moan of neon billboards,

wine soaked, & one more bottle drinks us into
   into squeeze boxes, accordians of skin
         musical lovers, loving garlic deeply,
      swallow the noose whole
        hang themselves inside out
            kissing, nibble the infinite O,
               two wounds breathing

sky tumbles, shaken
    star shavings gleaming in a martini prison,
      the air is fat with ambulance cha cha cha
               & rounds of ghosts whispering, "how, grand!" "how, grand!"
their invisible finger's trace the veins of our migrations
    red striations webbing the bed
that sudden garden
                where things grow without roots
                      erotically, in casual hunger

words from the unconscious language of limbs
    spell in commas    like snapshots of acrobats mid air,
         the meaning of exotic, hair the fragrance of
              cigarettes and dark chocolate,
& the wild precision of birds!
    two creatures of blown glass
        whose transparency stains life with color a negative space
              around the skin, even oxygen is a voyeur, exists for this show,
and gravity for laughter, all around us
    in the silence behind water
           rattling in pipes
               We feed the hollow night
                    left beautifully vague
as a cat kneads the minor keys of an old organ, creaking,
    as a gas heater hisses out
      chemical equations
                as hands dive off her face,
fly to her eyes in sharp twists,
on the floor everything that is soft bleeds with sound:
    and somewhere, impossibly,
        maybe on the shore of a sea where gods drunk on
              logic & Kmart, french ticklers & DNA,
                     Nothingness & million dollar bottle caps,
the rising sun banal like Lazarus
      jerks this world awake, at last.