—Public Domain Photos Courtesy of Michael Lee Johnson
I’m old Indian chief story
plastered on white scattered sheets,
Caucasian paper blowing in yesterday’s winds.
I feel white man’s presence
in my blindness—
cross over my ego, my borders,
urinates over my pride, my boundaries—
I cooperated with him until
death, my blindness.
I’m Blackfoot proud, mountain Chief.
I roam southern Alberta,
toenails stretch to Montana,
born on Old Man River—
prairie horse’s leftover
buffalo meat in my dreams.
Eighty-seven I lived in a cardboard shack.
My native dress lost, autistic babbling.
I pile up worthless treaties, paper burn white man.
Now 94, I prepare myself an ancient pilgrimage,
back to papoose, landscapes turned over.
I walk through this death baby steps,
no rush, no fire, nor wind, hair tangled—
earth possessions strapped to my back rawhide—
sun going down, moon going up,
I’m old man slow dying, Chief nobody.
An empty bottle of fire-water whiskey
lies on homespun rug,
cut excess from life,
partially smoked homemade cigar—
that dance of tears.
MISSING FEEDING OF THE BIRDS
Keeping my daily journal diary short
these sweet bird sounds lost—
reviews January through March.
Joy a dig deep snow on top of my sorrows.
Skinny naked bones sparrows these doves
beneath my balcony window,
lie lifeless without tweet
no melody lost their sounds.
These few survivors huddle in scruffy bushes.
Gone that plastic outdoor kitchen bowl that held the seeds.
I drink dated milk, distraught rehearse nightmares of childhood.
Sip Mogen David Concord Wine with diet 7Up.
Down sweet molasses and pancake butter.
I miss the feeding of the birds, these condominiums regulations,
callous neighbors below me, Polish complaints.
Their parties, foul language, Polish songs late at night,
these Vodka mornings—no one likes my feeding of birds.
I feel weak and Jesus-poor, starving, I can’t feed the birds.
I dry thoughts merge day with night, ZzzQuil, seldom sleep.
Guilt I cover my thoughts of empty shell-spotted snow
these fragments, bone parts and my prayers—
Jesus dwelling in my brain cells, dead birds outside.
I miss feeding of the birds.
OPEN EYES LAID BACK
Open eyes, black-eyed peas,
laid-back busy lives,
consuming our hours,
“which can Jolly Green Giant peas,
darling, to bring home tonight—
these aisles of decisions.”
“Before long, apps
will be wiping our butts
and we, others, our children
will not notice.”
No worries, outer space,
an app for horoscope, astrology
a co-pilot to keep our cold feet
Single life is Tequila with a slice of lime,
Shots offered my traveling strangers.
Play them all deal them jacks, some diamonds
then spades, hold back aces play hardball,
mock the jokers.
Paraplegic aging tumblers toss rocks,
Their dice go for the one-night stand.
Poltergeist fluid defines another frame.
Female dancers in the corner
Crooked smiles in shadows.
Single ladies don’t eat that tequila worm
dangle down the real story beneath their belts.
Men bashful, yet loud on sounds, but right times soft-spoken.
Ladies men lack caring verbs, traitors to your skin.
Ladies if you really want the worm, Mescal,
don’t be confused after midnight.
I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as a dying friend. I hold its hand and hope it will get better.
—Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
—Medusa, thanking Michael Lee Johnson for vivid poems (and companion photos) to help us through another day of lockdown.
For upcoming poetry readings and workshops available online while we stay at home, scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.