Black and white photo of house

Three Poems by Jonathan Johnson

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In a New Grief

The world heals in around a house.
Look at the old photos. 
              Black and white,
bare. No sycamore shade. 
              No rose bushes
up to the porch rail. The first owners
are new to the new wood, recently
              forest and not yet settled.
All the floors perfectly level. 
              The first layer of paint.
The first generation of starlings only now
              building nests in the eve.




Home Town for the Summer

The houses in the old neighborhood
are faces. Some dignified.
Kept optimistically up.
Some crumble, exposing more
of what they’re made of.
Letting in more weather.
Most are like us.
You have to want to look
a moment longer. Then worth it.
In rows, they watch us pass, their children.
Humming. Weeping. So much desire.
Until we leave. Until we die.
They do not wait for our return.
Patient parents, they do not call us in
until almost dark.



When Something’s Good, Keep It

The night-clouds rained and took all morning moving on,
so that now, afternoon opens its bright prism
on everything—cool breeze through the anemones of trees,
skin of a passing woman’s shoulder, gleaming chrome fender
of her bike, black iron and translucent streetlamp glass.
Like the granite-grey, six-foot, resolute-browed
Easter Island head between pots of blue asters on a stoop
and supervising the corner of Third and Ridge,
I have taken myself most seriously.
Fears and desires. Desires and fears.
Meanwhile, this clear, easy joy had been waiting for me.
That passing red Jeep guy has stacked his roof high
with equipage. Out he goes!
We are born clean of clothes, money, or name,
numberless moments lined up to receive us.




Jonathan JohnsonJonathan Johnson’s poems have appeared in Best American Poetry. His most recent books are the poetry collection May Is an island (2018) and the memoir The Desk on the Sea (2019). He teaches in the MFA program at Eastern Washington University.

Header photo by Paul Brennan, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Jonathan Johnson by Amy Howko. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.