Two Poems

by Preston Johnson


Behind a Starbucks Watching A Sales Man Smoke


A man stands behind a mattress store

Pulling and pushing a cigarette.

I’m sure he never thought he’d do that,

Spill smoke between his teeth

With his head filled with mattresses

And how people look when they

Buy them and lay on them,

And complain about them.


He shortens his cigarette with a few breaths

And breathes out some quiet numbers

He wants to meet. He’ll linger among the spent

Minutes of his break and look at how

The cars pass, the leaves shake their green

Beetle shells and how two cats slide along

the dumpster he sometimes smells.


He’ll drop his burned breath

And stamp out its heat into

A thin ribbon of smoke

Then slide back into the building

Between the white herd of beds.




Searching Twenty-Eight Bodies For Where Uncertainty Started

I am pawing through my old chests,

My little-boy-self squatting down

With me as I pull a liver away,

A kidney to the side, they hover

Like pink stones. I’ll find nothing here

So I jump a few years. Those wide eyes

Follow me to another of my bodies

Who wears a mask of delicate years tied

Together with parental care.

I press my hands through

My twelve year old rebar and

Bump a heart that startles blood

That streams past fingers and lips and eyes

And legs like a broken colony of ants.

My little-boy-self, the one I see in angry grey

Photos who stares out with two

Voids in his face, points and I nod.

We move three years away.

I push fifteen years of skin off

Until the muscles open up

All that teen energy in a red embrace.

It sat behind the thick skull of youth

Covered in a kudzu-truth

Where a wild lizard waits.

I work down

And crumple the papery stomach

And spread the creamy spleen

Which opens up the intestine.

My little-boy-self smiles into me

And peels pearled-uncertainties

From those silent pink-grey worms

And puts it in my palm.

We stand and walk four years down.

A river of bodies flowing between

His two pupil-voids and my hand where

I watch this uncertainty unfold into bits of me.

A leg. An arm. A shoulder.

Afew undigested years at a time

Of small truths I hid

From the blue-dotted globe that I

Spiral on me, that dashed

With people wringing their patient

Embarrassed hands that tied

Kudzu along their fingers

So each action trills their emotive beasts

That whip fiery green youth along

The charred edges of their tightrope-vines.

At nineteen I begin to see me. An instar form

Still possible as I peer through

The gossamers of sense that cris-cross

My past-face. My little-boy-self breaks

The strands along the chest and I work

The organs out of their puzzle bags, draping

Like laundry over the slick covers of skin.

The pubic bone rests like a bucket, spilling

Pearls along the spine.

We pull them out together. Our arms

Like egrets dabbing confused morsels

From still pools of muscles.

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