K.L. Johnston’s book of meditational poems and photos, In Every Season is available on Amazon and Kindle. She is a contributor to the anthologies Botany of Gaia and South Carolina Bards 2022, also available at Amazon. Visit her Facebook page, “A Written World” for more poetry, photo posts and updates on where her work will appear next.
A Lifetime Acquaintance With Bandits
Originally published in Maya’s Micro as a flash poem
I know the kits beside the road,
in the median, still, except
for the ruffling fur drafting with
the wind of traffic going by,
too innocent to make the long
stretch of asphalt and speed. I fear
for my passengers who’ll never
recognize a living bandit.
My college boyfriend’s best friend’s girl
friend kept a bandit as a pet:
all quivering nose and mischief,
a tender handed chittering
bundle of curiosity.
Too people smart to be released,
he graduated with us. Now
he’s working for the government:
national park ambassador.
One sleepless night, while I stared at
re-runs two shining eyes appeared
at the French doors. This bandit too
found vampire slayers amusing:
squatting on his haunches with nose
to glass, ignoring me in the
semi dark, fascinated to
watch these struggles of not so good
versus not so evil until
the credits rolled and he sauntered
away, musing over visions.
He was kept alive to train the
hounds, cage dragged through fields and forests
to teach the pups the scent of fear
and how to follow after it.
I didn’t know this when I first found
him, curled with his back to the world,
cornered in a chicken wire box.
They called him Jake. I visited
him one night with a gift of grapes
and bacon and sat silently
with him in his dark misery,
fiddling with the latch. The next
morning he was gone. I gladly
took the blame, but Jake worked out all
the mechanics on his own.
The clatter and crunch
on the back porch reminds me –
check the trash can lids.
Back in the day on a summer’s afternoon
my dad drove us out to the construction site
on the banks of the river.
We parked and walked down the bluff
where earthmovers and cranes stood quiet in the red mud.
One of them was tilted a little, on its side, stuck.
“I wanted you to see this” He was not smiling.
“because this changes everything.
People won’t be passing through anymore
they’ll be passing by.
You’ll be driving this road one day, fast.”
I put two fingers to my lips thinking
‘unh-uh’, because even at the age of ten
I didn’t like going fast.
We walked down the middle of the new stretch,
maybe the last travelers ever to walk there,
to see where the bridge’s first span
still hung unattached to the rest of the world.
It was more exciting to look down
as the river rolled below than to look across.
The extruding cables were too stiff and cold to be guts,
too rigid to be tentacles, the air smelling
of oil and a premonition of exhaust.
Finally he laughed and shook his head,
looking at the yellow machine stuck in the red mud.
“they might need a mule team to get that out.”
And we started back up the hill,
this time on the scraped and ravaged verge of the new road.
He pointed out the wild growth
disturbed and unnoticed in the way of progress;
the trillium and the lady slippers, the grandsire graybeard
and the fallen moss hung pines.
On this particular planet
there is no better place to meet
things greater than particular
self than on this shore at sunrise.
Under the pier, the cathedral
of serendipity runs, its
nave caught waves sprinkling baptisms
of light, washing free the jetsam
dragged too long.
Red sky this morning
prophesies, a sign to listen
for the larger voice, be dazzled
in the enormity of light
as gulls take flight in that sweet wild,
the flock of all you ken, soaring.
She was bold this one,
with a fondness for lily
buds and drinks from the
bird bath. Gravid when I first
watched her raiding the
garden she later brought her
fawns to feast, paying
their way with heart shaped hoof prints,
with poses in the
early mists, with gambling
games in summer’s dusk,
every summer until she
was forever gone.
Her cautious fawns still visit
and always they leave
the bud stripped lily stems bare
and the signature
prints of their wild hearts behind.