A solitary dirtbird in pajamas,
He sits at his laptop playing solitaire.
She asks him if he plans to take a shower
Or sit in his grubby idleness all day,
Wasting time. The cards dance as he wins a hand,
And he tells her it’s a possibility.
“Write me a poem,” she says, and he concedes,
To himself at least, that he’s been avoiding
The image of cartridge casings filled with crayons
Instead of bullets, loaded for art, lethal
To nothing except his hope to execute
The end of a rainbow where the urge to write
Might overcome the urge to kill. Poetry
Like the other arts, solves nothing, but it does
Remind us how much we’d rather live than die.
So what now? Another hand of solitaire?
He asks her if she’ll join him in the shower.
United States of Discord
Lately I’ve thought about a dooryard
Bereft of lilacs, out of season,
The jailbreak of circus animals,
The slouch of some beast toward somewhere.
Oh, I don’t say the world is likely
To end anytime soon. But for some
People life will probably go back
To a state worse than they imagined
When they cast their lot with the soulless,
Meaning those who have no souls to lose,
And those whose souls are goods for sale.
When Gandhi, MLK, and other
Martyrs couldn’t halt the bigotry
And greed and thin-skinned narcissism,
Can the women wearing pussy hats
Bring the bastards down? Can the slick crew
Of pinheads and pundits who broadcast
The ping-pong game they call balanced news
Do more than red ants at a picnic—
Annoy the gluttons at their feasting?
These people seem to hate everything
That’s not themselves. So we, who once said
“Make love, not war,” have to join the fray
And stand together, bald heads shining,
With all our brothers and sisters
In our united states of discord,
Hoping for the best, doing our best
To inch along to grace together.
Arnold Johnston lives in Kalamazoo and South Haven, Michigan. His poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and translations have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. His books include the following: poetry chapbooks Sonnets: Signs and Portents and What the Earth Taught Us; and The Witching Voice: A Novel from the Life of Robert Burns. His new collection, Where We're Going, Where We've Been, is available from FutureCycle Press; and a novel, Swept Away, will appear soon from Caffeinated Press. Arnie recommends the Children's Craniofacial Association.