THREE POEMS BY PAUL FOSTER JOHNSON
R3. War of Maneuver
If the sharpshooter were a smoker
cause would be the panoply of causes
and action would clot around the partisan
rather cigarette burns, rather upholstery buttons
the tearsheet beside the page
yielding paper dragons of autobiography.
Your cold exercise of identity
has an eye to the aquarium.
I need at least that seeing eye
to explain the means of falling on the page.
You are a simplification
exhumed from peat. In the dumbshow of sealife
who is there sees things. The tattoos
poking over the collar voice
an aroused indifference, laughing hearty
and rolling away in lieu of answer.
R5. Marcelled Men of War
When the road warrior asks accommodation
give in sighing. Your newfound gravitas
will be there to fret all conversation
and you will cheat often
toward crowds that will absorb you.
In the face of danger
find a strategy of misrepresentation.
Draw a figure when they expect a grid, explain
the layers of dust as a question of lighting.
Such a face as yours is not enshrouded
in old paintings. Get into robes
and let your gothic give way to dark.
When pity and fear slip into the river system
make nowheresville a fortress. Keep the skiffs
from running aground and scrub the shore
with transcendent whimsy, improvise
devices with the lifeways of a doll.
R13. Written into the Bestiary
The bluejay and the red-eyed lamb
were cheap toys
for phalanstery kids
Some magic show
their park of declarations
had been a mistake
When you were born
the wolves outside
their footfalls never neutral
abducted the plush symbols
there to greet you
Leaving you sungazing
in pine sap and ambient noise
Things in themselves
wavering in the grove
A beginning indentured you here
on the inmost beaches
surrounded by ventifacts smooth
out of the cannibals’ poems
*all from Refrains/unworkings, Apostrophe Books, 2008.