Halvard Johnson

Sonnet: Tropical Forest with Monkeys

When you take your monkeys fishing in the forest
it’s important to remind them not to leave their fishing
poles behind. Animals, as we know, often have human
traits and characteristics, and vice versa. If they express

fear of the forest, point out to them that the jungle is not
as deep as it once was. Farming and lumbering and strip-
mining have now seen to that. Have your monkeys express
their thoughts and fears in little balloons above their heads.

Consider having them write little screenplays that, once home,
they can act in as well as direct and produce to share with
a wider audience. Bringing along journals and making entries
in them whenever they have a spare moment is never a bad idea.

Monkeys, whether macaques or langurs or gibbons, all enjoy
trips to the forest. They always have a good time.

Autumnal Sonnet

An undesecrated flag flew over the ballpark, where outfielders
napped and baserunners took desperate chances. Such talent
as that had not been seen since the beginning of the eclipse.

Opportunity stood on our doorstep, hand raised to knock. Embryo-
genesis, our middle name. No-fly zones at the ready in the backyard.
All sorts of guys came by for drinks, or looking for free hand-outs.

Among the missing, we were always at a loss for something to say,
something at least sympathetic, if not moreso. A designer
of aloha shirts camped on the median strip across from the end

of our driveway. “Will work for food” said his sign. Some said his
parents had married for love, but none could have known for sure.
Youngsters congregated in the front yard, choosing up sides.

We older folk kicked back in the bleachers, basking in the early
October sun, taking our game to higher levels than ever before.

Sonnet: Gracing Light

At the far end of the massive site, the sun is stropped,
and yet three murals of quetzals and jaguars bestow
a quiet dignity to all who come upon them in the late
summer. Items of daily life preoccupy the old museum.

If you’re in the mood to accuse someone, now is the time
to do it. You never know when you’ll be in this neigh-
borhood again. The peppery taste of the local food
lingers in the mouth all evening, too bellicose for words.

A snatch of Boulez comes wafting up from the beach
and loiters there, hoping you’ll listen for a while. A man
in a hood observes from behind a nearby panel truck,
an aboriginal or mestizo of some sort. Incredibly, even

though under the knout, these people smile every day,
play with their babies after coming home from work.

Sonnet for the Criminally Insane

Nobody’s perfect, I suppose, but still there are limits,
aren’t there? Who’d want a world full of happy, gum-
snapping Christian Americans, fast-tracked to Heaven?
One lifetime as a Gila monster’s enough for anyone.

Right? Being an extremist may not yet be a crime, but
it’s surely a more than effective branding strategy. Hate-
filled drivel makes millions in the current climate of
opinion, conservative market analysis shows. Soapbox

oratory of those constantly fed up with this and that,
of Nazis, both neo- and crypto-, of flatworlders, of end-
timers, and other loonies. Negative karma outweighs
several lifetimes of do-gooding . . . I mean who can

now say who’s the offender, who the offendee in an age
that denies hurricanes (Katrina included) ever happen?

Your Emergency Preparedness Kit

What you’ll need in your kit, of course, depends on the kind
of emergency you plan to have and where you plan to have it.
If you’re in France and plan to have an emergency on the road

be sure to take along a corkscrew, five bottles of wine, three or
four baguettes, some fine, pungent cheese, and a red and white
checkered tablecloth. In much of the rest of Europe and in Cali-

fornia, mostly the same. In Latin America, much the same. But
in Canada be sure to have a charged cell phone, and in the US
a fistful of credit cards, and your Triple-A card. A six-pack of beer

would be a comfort. In many parts of the world you can rely on
friendly locals to pull you out of a ditch, give you a push, or carry
you, your wife and kids off to a nearby clinic or hospital. In case

of serious injuries, it’s a good idea to have several units of blood
for each of you. And in Texas, of course, you’re on your own.

What’s Up

Duddy wakes up from a nap and takes things seriously
for a change. Luther’s mad as hell cuz he can’t change
Jews into Christ-huggers. Junior’s out chugalugging

Gatorade laced with vodka. Mom’s in the kitchen
roastin’ taters. Uncle Joe’s up on the roof, banging
his head on the skylight. The dog’s asleep on the bath-

room floor. Auntie Vanessa’s putting on her face again.
Wherever we go we is with us. Nobody knows the color
of sky. The trouble I’ve seen. Uncle Moses has taken

to parting his hair in the middle nowadays. No one to
blame but himself. Melanie’s sister’s hung out to dry.
It’s the best of times, the worst of times. Tempus fidgets.

Born in Newburgh, New York, Halvard Johnson grew up in New York City and the Hudson Valley. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, and Baltimore City Arts. Among his collections of poetry are Transparencies and Projections, The Dance of the Red Swan, Eclipse, and Winter Journey—all from New Rivers Press and, now out of print, archived at the Contemporary American Poetry Archives. Recent collections include Rapsodie espagnole, G(e)nome, The Sonnet Project, Theory of Harmony—all from www.xpressed.org—and The English Lesson, from Unicorn Press. Hamilton Stone Editions has published two collections: Guide to the Tokyo Subway and Organ Harvest with Entrance of Clones. He has lived and worked in Chicago, Illinois; El Paso, Texas; Cayey, Puerto Rico; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; and New York City. For many years he taught overseas in the European and Far East divisions of the University of Maryland, mostly in Germany and Japan. He currently resides in New York City, but spends quality time mostly in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

previous page     contents     next page



Blogger Unknown said...

Hawaiian shirts are a must when traveling through the jungle. Definitely makes the trek a lot more festive.

3:55 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home