Dramatization and other works by Phil Johnson


Phil Johnson: Poetry/fiction in multifarious magazines like Poetry Motel, Seen (Unseen), and YAWP, and the book Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace (editor, Maxine Hong Kingston). Readings at Poetry Project at St. Mark's, Zinc Bar Series, and Coliseum Books, and staged reading of his play Outskirts of Nowhere by actors at the Flea Theater, NYC. Hosts radio show Across the Borderline featuring spoken word, interviews, live mixes, and music across cultures on WBCR in Massachusetts.


This is a Dramatization. The Results are Real.


I was so enormous I used to hide from my mirror. The killer

though rare, a stuffed animal

shopping for panties and negligees. Kids call it

Mr. Quiver. For erections longer than four hours

tumescent liposculpture. Remove rubber,

pull handle to exit.

                                           I would only trust my body

to laser resurfacing, eyelid rejuvenation.

The man accused of storing ashes

instead of spreading them. A sad puzzling episode

-abandonment of the cremains.

               Your client is not allowed access

to the forbidden object.

                       Just because I wear mascara here,

doesn't mean I wear it there.

                                                                       I had known Paul

when she was Paula. At first it was awkward,

but he liked soft underthings. Soon we became intimate

in a new way.

                                              In a makeshift barbed-wire enclosure

under heavy guard. Little large-headed beings

huddle fearfully. The 84-year old former operative

dying of bone cancer

              says he wants to set

the record straight.

                                                 Those tiny innocent faces

have haunted me

                                 for 32 long years.


                         (If you're not Philip Johnson,

click here instead.)


Smoke Cries



I run when I see the smoke
in your eyes-it's the run
in your stocking that seems
like a nylon starting to cry.
And just when I begin to care
I'm smothered in your underwear.


On the clothesline the underwear
dances in chorus, I smoke
sitting here, trying not to care.
I can't get up to run.
The bloody sun makes me cry.
Things aren't what they seem.


Wind tearing open the seam
of the hillside. My underwear
is in tatters. One small cry
from the forest, a wisp of smoke
trembles where the tree line runs,
birds on high without a care.


"So long," she says, "take care."
"You're more sensitive than you seem."
What's that mean? I want to run
out from under the face I wear.
It's all illusion, just the smoke
of a dream, a staircase of cries.


What happened to the newsboy's cry?
He felt as lost as a care
package. Watching the actors smoke
in noir movies, they seem
to move through lives where underwear
is abandoned. Along the sunset boulevard she runs.


I've forgotten how to run.
At the beach the seagulls cry,
missing their long underwear
in winter. Don't their mothers' care?
In fog the streetlamps seem
like UFOs floating in smoke



Don't forget to smoke and run.
Let them seem to see you cry.
No underwear? No one will care.



Sublime Boneyard
                              Aliens are fallen Michelangelos, they shine in the brush.

Lonely cowboy at night on his bedroll, wishing real hard it was all rolled back and he was facing Phoenix.

You get so alone, lonesome cowpoke (thank you, Buk). Maneuvers on his back, under the beamer, luminous throne, bright flotations.

So alone (thank you bright lie). Aliens are falling angels. Ancient progenitors, breathing in celestial realms. Only make believe, at the end of the prairie, chance events, operations, only make no sense, spun back like fictions.

I'll show you operations. See the difference in his bright lie. And the captain says: I can sail it.

I'm sucking this scary shiver me timbers, random drops above the prairie, even the tailing plane? goes down my chest.

Scatter this sand where the ship falls searching for prairie dogs, scars down a cactus. Shunt shines like a searchlight.

Flash flood, follow this flight to the end time, end time. Dial the Divine space line.

Then the crash, luminous three where we smash arrays, quick like, sucking light out a cactus. Into the clearing-Krishna, Krishna.

Boots on, he blunders into the radiant. The lonesome cowpoke ends, clutching flotation. We've reached his bright see-through desert.

We beached his britches behind him, sitting on history. Bequeath his bedroll to the humpback whale, wishing away, facing the differential, facing the phosphorescent throne.

The lonesome cowpoke clutching his bedroll falling from poem ends here. We've reached the bright lie, and a straw. Roll out the three wheeled creeper.

Hare Krishna to the brush he cleared.

Hare Krishna to the windshield sky.