Halvard Johnson

Saga Sonnet

These events took place in the United States of America
a long time ago, in that dark age between the reigns
of Lingnar the Flat-nosed and Umnox the Lame-brained.

In those times, weeds were allowed to run wild, liars
and braggarts held forth on all sides, and everyone, without
exception, was tall and handsome and blond. To come

to blows one had only to smile in the direction of another.
Custom decreed that house-guests be slaughtered as they
slept, so the strongest among us were most insomniac.

Our women bore children to men not their husbands, to those
even blonder men who came to visit, but not to stay for long.

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Boolean Nights Sonnet

                "boolean night and hurtled paths"
                                              —Alan Sondheim

Do not crawl gentle into that. Good night and good
night. I prithee, search out the dead cell phones, bid
them rise. How useless of us, how endlessly we barrel
down the nation's highways, as though dawn never

cracketh. Rumble strips rouse us from our naps, our
circadian tricycles. Our meditations safely lodged up
on the shelves above the sink, we close the shutters,
let senescent rabbis shuffle the deck and deal. Late-

night mail arrives, nth delivery of the day, but, down
the river there, mail comes early or never. Gathering
tribes have got all day to sort things out, to compile
their dance suites, their lists of obligations to future,

unformed generations. We're out of luck, my friends,
but something yet might happen—tomorrow or tonight.

Etiolation Sonnet

My wife turns herself off after a few seconds. I've wondered
about traffic noise, but so far it's been okay. Dark elongates

move beneath the leaves beneath the eaves, then grow to full
size and turn green. Reaching the light, dim caliphates pulse
much more rapidly than normal. A lot less fun, but easier

is not to invite friends over at all. Internodes of common parlance
self-reproduce until food reserves are all used up. Light too dim
to be useful makes us wonder where all the birds have come from.

Their ruckus in the coming or onrushing darkness rattles our cages.
Yet on those long, warm summer nights, one yearns for a backyard
rainbow, one that your drunken guests cannot turn off by accident.

Our internal clocks set to explode at the slightest vibration, we lie
awake in the quiet dark, our tendrils fading ever closer to the light.

Sonnet: La Malcontenta

Nowadays, she is away a lot, away from home, from her kids,
who've learned to deal, to take care of themselves and each
other. She loads her little truck with her wares and drives off,
waving into the rear-view mirror. She tweets them from little

towns in the countryside where she (on good days) sells her
wares, comes back empty. Her oldest son in Afghanistan, she
tweets him too. He always says, "im ok mom," but she wonders,
and wonders how he could be. She voted for Obama too,

but now she wonders. On the road a lot and sometimes over
night if the truck isn't empty, she'd like to be home with her kids
but business is business, and if she doesn't sell, the kids don't
eat. There are men . . . well, yes, there have to be men, right?

The kid in Afghanistan, he tweets her with "hey mom im dyng."
It's the last one. She tweets him a hug and a kiss.

Sonnet bureaucratique

While the office is closed, take a hike from Normandy
to Montmartre, read your partitions to any who will stop

to listen. Catalog your umbrellas, including those you
have never used. When you run out of room for pianos,

stack them up, one upon another, the topmost upside
down. Move your precursors from left to right on your

screen, backspace ad libitum. Choose times of low
income to reduce your spending.

Yo, Dada. Yo, Mama.

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.

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