LEAF TORN AND STORM: A POEM BY MIKE JOHNSON


leaf torn and storm

 In memory of the late, great planet earth

for many days the wind blew… and blew
huffed and puffed at the doors
at the windows at the roof at
the foundations
like the wolf in The Three Little Pigs

Little pig, little pig, let me come iiinnnn…

with the wind came a great bulk of sand to pile up
pile up, pile up, pile up, pile up
whispering against the vertical axis
against every available smile, every fruitless prayer or easy evasion,
every fairy-tale dream, every house of straw and sticks
tempering corners with an insidious softness
and sifting down from eaves and ceilings, like the past itself,
the history of the world, Virgil’s guided tour
of extreme weather events in 3D, in real time

Little pig, little pig…

walls, streets, fences, roads and distances
all vanish
into the general, implacable undulation –
sometimes it is quiet, constant and forever,
or quick and violent,
but always it moans like a martyr
from a simple rustle to a chainsaw roar
always it is the wind, nothing more
and always it cries in our broken sleep

I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down

 as patches of air boil with memory
and the echo of warrior voices
curtains of sand drift with eerie, sinuous slowness
across the streets and over the houses as if they were women
on their way home after a hard day’s work –
pieces of kelp walk erect, as if possessed of skeletons
lumps of tussock grass do
tumbleweed somersaults like circus performers
spiders surf the air with grim equanimity –
bits of paper, a love letter to Beatrice,
family photographs whirling like confetti,
a sock biting its own tail, a floppy doll spinning
spread-eagled limbs, a pair of trousers racing
helter-skelter down the road with
legs of wind

 over the garden whirligigs are doing a
potato and carrot dance
to the sound of pan pipes and maypole music
while
a tricycle with only one wheel
limps in circular memory,
while
lumps of timber do dangerous back flips
while
a piece of rusty corrugated iron revolves like a roulette wheel
while
in the houses of money where the odds are running
and in the houses of the dead, where the odds have run out
the corpses are set walking into the good night
in search of collateral and a handy bunker

Little pig, little pig…

there are dreamy shards of glass in motion
like, she said, everybody’s dreams all mixed up
flying about in the real world, like, she said,
sweeping out the house until our brooms runs out of faith
until only our feet can dream,
until our bodies shake, oh how they shaky-shake-shake,
in the stinging air
air opaque with stinging sand
houses buried, uncovered and reburied at whim –
watch how it all vanishes
re-appears
and vanishes again –

 the widow sits alone, still and silent
and watches the wind unbury and bury her husband,
scouring his grave clean and filling it up
with the silly rhymes of children
dressing and undressing his memory –
this is what the wind brings, grief and apparitions

when will it be over, we ask our icons,
while our children turn restless in their sleep
dreaming of wolves and houses made of brick
when will journey be over
are we there yet?

Mike Johnson, 2015

 

 An earlier version of the poem was originally published in To Beatrice, Where We Cross the Line, published by Sandwich Press.