For Louis
By Gary Johnston

notheast of
the rising sun
we go south
to richmond,
durham & beyond
hidden hills,
stone mountain,
cobb county,
the chattahoochee
coming like a
don't look back.
there is no place
to stumble
when you can't
fall down &
the best consider
you a gone shadow
southern rain.
the sometimes
great art that
grows great pain,
thousand mile
want soaked
in cognac, walks
by the graveside
of greater men
driven to an edge
sharp as a tongue
that has swolled
too much pain
in the winter
is still cold

no matter how
far you go
there you are
more alive
than dead
more distant
than close
looking after
houses that have
never known people.
among red clay,
birch & pine
you wear a sadness
old from absence,
carry a body
forward to nowhere
you remember.
no race memory
smile hidden
in the way.
the better half
of you is gone
& offers of proof
are not worth
the effort
whatever else
is left is dry
as the soil
you walk on,
the air you breath
along memorial drive,
windchase lane,
these hills of
georgia, the
long ride back.

November 2 1994

By Gary Johnston

i believed
in magic,
cycle of stars,
the universe
as it should.
urban bush doctor,
clarence the
gap-toothed boy
coming on
a moment,
unanswered alibies,
dead noise
in a room
of silence.

i have
wandered across the
bloody page
of my notebook,
looked for
in the
dark eyes
of a woman
yet everywhere
i turned
there was war,
signs of war.
the death of romance,
a child stillborn.
you can't
throw down
with the devil,
sit with the beast
& not get burned
& when all
you ask requires
tolls at a bridge

better to be
an abstract thought,
a clock face
than flesh & bone, real & breathing.
after all
just cause
a man is paranoid
doesn't mean
they're not
after him.
my father
after eighty

years of rage,
born of a
coal mine,
harlem & the
south bronx
told me
a black man
in America
who is not
is crazy
& when the days come
in like winter
a phone does
not ring &
there is
nothing to hold
on to not even
professed sanity,
than you
better draw
battle plans in
your notebook,
plot the
destruction of

i don't mean
to be vindictive.
but we all
get what
we deserve
or at least
we pay for everything
we get.

so i will
throw the bones,
conjure up
dust & juju,
mark names in the book of
the dead &
it's a poor rat
that only got
one hole & the
only way to
get to heaven
or hell is to
pay the price
before you get
to the door.

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