Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson
Denis Johnson 1949-2017

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Three for Thanksgiving!

Yam

The potato that ate all its carrots,
can see in the dark like a mole,

its eyes the scars
from centuries of shovels, tines.

May spelled backwards
because it hates the light,

pawing its way, padding along,
there in the catacombs.

Bruce Guernsey

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Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Joy Harjo


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Totem

All Souls’ over, the roast seeds eaten, I set  
on a backporch post our sculpted pumpkin  
under the weather, warm still for November.  
Night and day it gapes in at us
through the kitchen window, going soft
in the head. Sleepwalker-slow, a black rash of ants  
harrows this hollow globe, munching  
the pale peach flesh, sucking its seasoned  
last juices dry. In a week, when the ants and  
humming flies are done, only a hard remorseless light  
drills and tenants it through and through. Within,  
it turns mould-black in patches, stays  
days like this while the weather takes it  
in its shifty arms: wide eye-spaces shine,  
the disapproving mouth holds firm. Another week,  
a sad leap forward: sunk to one side
so an eye-socket’s almost blocked, it becomes
a monster of its former self. Human, it would have  
rotted beyond unhappiness and horror  
to some unspeakable subject state—its nose  
no more than a vertical hole, the thin  
bridge of amber between nose and mouth  
in ruins. The other socket opens
wider than ever: disbelief.
                                        It’s all downhill
from here: knuckles of sun, peremptory
steady fingers of frost, strain all day and night—
cracking the rind, kneading the knotted fibres  
free. The crown, with its top-knot mockery  
of stalk, caves in; the skull buckles; the whole  
sad head drips tallowy tears: the end
is in sight. In a day or two it topples on itself  
like ruined thatch, pus-white drool spidering  
from the corner of the mouth, worming its way
down the body-post. All dignity to the winds,  
it bows its bogeyman face of dread
to the inevitable.
                           And now, November almost out,  
it is in the bright unseasonable sunshine
a simmer of pulp, a slow bake, amber shell speckled  
chalk-grey with lichen. Light strikes and strikes  
its burst surfaces: it sags, stays at the end of  
its brief tether—a helmet of dark circles, death caul.  
Here is the last umbilical gasp, everybody’s  
nightmare parent, the pitiless system
rubbing our noses in it. But pity poor lantern-head  
with his lights out, glob by greasy glob
going back where he came from: as each seed-shaped  
drop falls free, it catches and clutches
for one split second the light. When the pumpkin  
lapses to our common ground at last—where  
a swaddle of snow will fold it in no time
from sight—I try to take in the empty space it’s left  
on top of the wooden post: it is that empty space.

Eamon Grennan

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