Joel F. Johnson
I'm a businessman and chronic English major who began writing poetry about ten years ago. Sometimes, I find myself switching back and forth between a spreadsheet and an unfinished poem. My first book of poems, Where Inches Seem Miles, was published by Antrim House at the end of 2013. In 2014, Kirkus Reviews selected it as one of the best books of the year in the Indie category. I've benefited from workshops at the Concord Poetry Center and from the journals which have published my work, including Rattle, Blackbird, and Salamander. My website, joelfjohnson.com, includes a few videos where I've attempted to combine a reading with appropriate images.
Editor's Note: See Joel's video of his reading this poem HERE.
Where Inches Seem Miles
To slow the approach, one may stop to ask directions,
note the grease engravings on the gas man’s finger
as he traces a route on blue highways,
the skin of the map trembling in his hand,
the network of roads connecting like neurons.
This one has been folded too many ways, its edges furred,
holes worn in the four-corner conjunctions,
towns eaten away by hard use until,
driving, one is reminded of what’s been left—
a straggle of houses, satellite dishes and half-eaten lawns,
a dog or two, a church or two, another store with little to sell.
Green hatching is a state park,
its picnic tables represented by what appear to be scraps of Sanskrit.
The lake is an irregular clover leaf shaded blue
though its water has been brown always,
its trees draped in moss, the lasting whir of cicadas,
its river a wiggle scribbled by a child.
Roads like veins, paper like flesh, names of towns
written in empty places. But when you get there,
there’s always evidence of some man’s sweat—
a half-plowed field, a no trespassing sign,
our old house painted a different color, half its trees cut down.
A dog or two, a church or two, enough graves to justify a fence.
-first appeared in Where Inches Seem Miles - Antrim House Books (2013)
©2015 Joel Johnson