Perhaps those footsteps outside the door are clouds come
to pawn sunny days for Midwest thunderstorms—
On the electronics shelf, I leave one of the TVs on,
tuned into the local news. On the screen,
a brand-new weatherman, standing too stiff
and talking too fast, explains air currents
while the dark tint of storm curtains the shop windows
dimming the light inside. I let my eyes to adjust before
I stare back down at the crossword. Seven Across:
a sudden but violent rainstorm. The clouds burst
and the sun filters its way back into the room. A patron
with an umbrella, broken on two of the spokes,
steps through the doors and shakes herself dry like a dog.
She glances to the television coverage and then says,
Fucker of a shit storm, ain’t it? I look up from my paper
and ask, what’s a ten-letter word for ‘written in the stars?’
Soda Can Sam Offers Life Advice Over a Cigarette
Because traces of laughter might be echoing
against windy tree tops & ricocheting into
unassuming hearts of the town’s passersby—
After locking the store, slamming the metal bars
over the screen door shut, I meet my buddy Sam
at a cowboy-themed dive bar down on 5th street.
In the summers, frat boys & their too-young girlfriends
dance on the rooftop to bad country music, but tonight
it’s just me & Sam, so we drain some beer & talk
about the work of being alive. I ask when
he plans on stopping by the shop, again, & he shrugs.
I tell him about the flies in the light fixture, how I used
to climb up on top of the counter when the shop was empty
& slide the plastic cover off, but now I just let them fry.
I know it’s morbid,
but it’s what I’ve been thinking about,
so I ask about his day instead.
He tells me that he sees his wife’s
ghost in the reflection of every window
he passes throughout the day,
like she’s still walking
beside him on the sidewalk.
He says On the walk here, I saw her standing
in the window of a dress shop & the dress
she tried on was just atrocious—almost like she knew.
It reminded me of our wedding day, so I just smiled.
Pulling a long drag from his smoke &
letting out a laugh closer to a cough,
he says Our lives are bows / pulled back
& aimed at the world (another drag)
so we’re responsible
for picking the arrows.
—because of this, I laugh.
Frank’s Wild Years
- after Tom Waits, of course
Chicanery, tomfoolery, hoopla, angst, amuck, and other shades
of youth hang neatly over a nail in the back hall, collecting dust,
pocked with holes from a few stray months. Once, you ran,
pedaled, drove, screamed across pavement however you could,
burnt all kinds of rubber down to particles and walked away,
scratched your name into any surface you could find just to prove
to a stranger that you might be somebody even if everyone else forgot.
You pulled cigarettes down to the nubs and let the poison settle
deep in your gut like it might kill off just the unwanted parts of you
and leave something better in their wake. You marched and fought
and took wrenches to the bolts of the machine, breaking the world
piece by piece into something better, something to be proud of. And now what?
You railed against the bullshit of your west Texas life
and all you’ve done since is change your zip code.
Where Dirt Lands / Where Lands Dirt: Dorthy’s Lament/
a stop in Oklahoma
after a car accident
—to Randi (and Papa Larry)
Her body had forgotten (those)
simple functions—and handfuls
of dirt thrown down to an open
She could do that—stand above
death with her sad faces & see
tears evaporate before touching
She had no words for her loss.
Her loss remains unnamed. Her
loss is like this: how do you try
to breathe / in spaces / void of
air / or light?
How do you step from heart to
heartless in one last breath? How
do you rise up through blood-
drenched ancestral soil?
Through soil drenched in each
Through a drenched heart bled
Nothing to eat but memories. &
always hungering for memories
to be gone.
Because I could forget how to ride
a bike through the city park at dusk—
I know how to change, to shift, to fit
myself neatly into small containers
of various shapes
We could abandon Addison, all of its
dull, faceless inhabitants, and head out
to claim a new identity—to pillage &
plunder & plant our independence
flag deep in
the Flint Hills &
the Arbuckle summits.
Because I’ll join you on the road, sing
ash-can ballads to the pt-pt-pt of your
typewriter hammering out a letter
to your parents, you’ve gone off to
find America or
Woody Guthrie or
whatever it is.
Whatever you’re looking for, take me
with you—I’ll help you look. Because my
jar fits nicely in your suitcase next to
your neon clothes
& thrift-store dreams.
“All five poems were co-written by Quinn Carver Johnson and Dr. Todd Fuller and come from a collaborative manuscript, tentatively titled "Linear". The manuscript was born from the final poem of Fuller's first poetry collection, To the Disappearance, titled 'An Index of First Lines:' and attempts to provide a poem for each of the disjointed 'first lines' from Fuller's original poem.”
Quinn Carver Johnson was born and raised on the Kansas-Oklahoma border and currently attends Hendrix College, pursuing degrees in Creative Writing and Performance Studies. Johnson was an editorial intern at Sundress Publications and currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief for the Aonian. Johnson’s work has appeared in Rappahannock Review, Right Hand Pointing, and Flint Hills Review. Todd Fuller has two books published, 60 Feet Six Inches and Other Distances from Home: the (Baseball) Life of Mose YellowHorse (Holy Cow! Press, 2002) and To the Disappearance (Mongrel Empire Press, 2015). He serves as co-director of OU’s Mark Allen Everett Poetry Series and as an adjunct faculty mentor for the Red Earth MFA Program at Oklahoma City University. Recent work has appeared in the Journal of Working Class Studies, Flint Hills Review, and Red Earth Review.