Michael Lee Johnson


Gingerbread Lady


Gingerbread lady,

no sugar or cinnamon spice;

years ago arthritis and senility took their toll.

Crippled mind moves in then out, like an old sexual adventure

blurred in an imagination of fingertip thoughts.

Who in hell remembers the characters?

There was George, her lover, near the bridge at the Chicago River:

she missed his funeral; her friends were there.

She always made feather-light of people dwelling on death,

but black and white she remembers well.

The past is the present; the present is forgotten.

Who remembers Gingerbread Lady?

Sometimes lazy-time tea with a twist of lime,

sometimes drunken-time screwdriver twist with clarity.

She walks in scandals; sometimes she walks in soft night shoes.


Her live-in maid smirks as Gingerbread Lady gums her food,

false teeth forgotten in a custom-imprinted cup

with water, vinegar, and ginger.

The maid died.  Gingerbread Lady looks for a new maid.

Years ago, arthritis and senility took their toll.

Yesterday, a new maid walked into the nursing home.

Ginger forgot to rise out of bed;

no sugar, or cinnamon toast.





Harvest Time

(Version 5 Final)


A Mtis Indian lady, drunk,

hands blanketed over as in prayer,

over a large brown fruit basket

naked of fruit, no vine, no vineyard

inside−approaches the Edmonton,

Alberta adoption agency.

There are only spirit gods

inside her empty purse.


Inside, an infant,

restrained from life,

with a fruity wine sap apple

wedged like a teaspoon

of autumn sun

inside its mouth.

A shallow pool of tears starts

to mount in native blue eyes.

Snuffling, the mother offers

a slim smile, turns away.

She slithers voyeuristically

through near slum streets,

and alleyways,

looking for drinking buddies

to share a hefty pint

of applejack wine.





Charley Plays a Tune

(Version 2)


Crippled with arthritis

and Alzheimer's,

in a dark rented room,

Charley plays

melancholic melodies

on a dust filled

harmonica he

found  abandoned

on a playground of sand

years ago by a handful of children

playing on monkey bars.

He now goes to the bathroom on occasion,

relieving himself takes forever; he feeds the cat when

he doesn't forget where the food is stashed at.

He hears bedlam when he buys fish at the local market

and the skeleton bones of the fish show through.

He lies on his back riddled with pain,

pine cones fill his pillows and mattress;

praying to Jesus and rubbing his rosary beads

Charley blows tunes out his

celestial instrument

notes float through the open window

touch the nose of summer clouds.

Charley overtakes himself with grief

and is ecstatically alone.

Charley plays a solo tune.






Nikki Purrs


Soft nursing

5 solid minutes

of purr

paws paddling

like a kayak competitor

against ripples of my

60 year old river rib cage−

I feel like a nursing mother

but Im male and I have no nipples.

Sometimes I feel afloat.

Nikki is a little black skunk,

kitten, suckles me for milk,

or affection?

But she is 8 years old a cat.

Im her substitute mother,

afloat in a flower bed of love,

and I give back affection

freely unlike a money exchange.

Done, I go to the kitchen, get out

Fancy Feast, gourmet salmon, shrimp,

a new work day begins.





Rod Stroked Survival with a Deadly Hammer


Rebecca fantasized that life was a lottery ticket or a pull of a lever,
that one of the bunch in her pocket was a winner or the slots were a redeemer;
but life itself was not real that was strictly for the mentally insane at the Elgin
Mental Institution.
She gambled her savings away on a riverboat
stuck in mud on a riverbank, the Grand Victoria, in Elgin, Illinois.
Her bare feet were always propped up on wooden chair;
a cigarette dropped from her lips like morning fog.
She always dreamed of traveling, not nightmares.
But she couldn't overcome, overcome,
the terrorist ordeal of the German siege of Leningrad.
She was a foreigner now; she is a foreigner for good.
Her first husband died after spending a lifetime in prison
with stinging nettles in his toes and feet; the second
husband died of hunger when there were no more rats
to feed on, after many fights in prison for the last remains.
What does a poet know of suffering?
Rebecca has rod stroked survival with a deadly mallet.
She gambles nickels, dimes, quarters, tokens tossed away,
living a penniless life for grandchildren who hardly know her name.
Rebecca fantasized that life was a lottery ticket or the pull of a lever.




Mother, Edith, at 98


Edith, in this nursing home

blinded with macular degeneration,

I come to you with your blurry

eyes, crystal sharp mind,

your countenance of grace−

as yesterday's winds

I have chosen to consume you

and take you away.


"Oh, where did Jesus disappear

to, she murmured,

over and over again,

in a low voice

dripping words

like a leaking faucet:

"Oh, there He is my

Angel of the coming."


Copyright 2009 Michael Lee Johnson


Michael Lee Johnson is a poet and freelance writer from Itasca, Illinois. His brand new poetry chapbook with pictures From Which Place the Morning Rises and his new photo version of The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom are available at: http://stores.lulu.com/promomanusaThe original version of The Lost American:  from Exile to Freedom, can be found at:  http://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/book_detail.asp?isbn=0-595-46091-7.   He has been published in over 22 countries.  Email:  promomanusa@gmail.comThe author is also editor/publisher of four poetry sites, all open for submission, which can be found at his website:  http://poetryman.mysite.com/.  All of his books are now available on Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=michael+lee+johnson.