/luke johnson

What I mean when I say water

is we watch a whale,
my son and I,

struggle on the beach
and start to hiss

when air grows thick
and the throng

of its blowhole sputters.
Move on I say no more

and my son obeys
with a gaze like Gaza

smoldering. Not a single
bird alive to sing

the living from the shatter.
Only smoke

smoke and glass
and a cello lost

from a second story window
where a little girl played

despite her daddy’s drinking
and pretended

it a door which sounds
like adore

a dance of echolocation.
I was worried

if he stared too long
the wounds would smile

and suddenly raptured
under all that awe

the sandpipers dim
and waves diminish

leave him clawing
for more. I

read there is a beetle
that eats its husk

and as it burgeons out
a brighter color

collects the shards
and buries it where

a blossom’s shriveled
to trick your plane of sight.

And isn’t that like a father
afraid of his boy?

The both of them bound
to some kind of ritual

by which I mean shedding,
until all that’s left

are lunar lights
and a cry that wafts

like lit spruce over
the day’s spent sky.

A little one playing
the cello.

Luke Johnson lives on the California coast with his wife and three kids. His poems can be found at Kenyon Review, Narrative Magazine, Florida Review, Frontier, Thrush and elsewhere. His manuscript in progress was recently named a finalist for the Jake Adam York Prize, The Levis through Four Way Press, The Vassar Miller Award and is forthcoming fall of 2023 from Texas Review Press. Email: lukethepoet.com