Fall 1989, Volume 6.2


Allan Johnston

Allan Johnston (Ph.D., U of California_Davis) is a Lecturer in English at UC_Davis. His poetry has appeared in South Florida Poetry Review, Asylum, Green Fuse, Redstart, The MacGuffin, California Quarterly, and Shooting Star Review.

See other poetry published in Weber Studies by Allan Johnston: Vol. 11.2Vol. 14.2Vol. 17.0,  and  Vol. 19.3.


The Moon at the Tail of the Train

Attached with a thread,
it bounces behind us
like a balloon
some clown has tied
to the thumb of a five year old.

Half-stooping through tunnels,
winking through trees,
allowing itself to be
dragged through lights of
towns you've never
thought of, it comes out
unharmed for all that
and jostles along

the broken file
of horizons as if
nothing at all
had pulled it down
these mountains into
the air of the coast,
Sacramento, San

just waiting for
the train to debark,
ready for its
backward flight
from the ocean where it
must some day
deliver itself
at dawn.


Long Rivers

If I have fallen back into some
enchantment with seasons running through me
like water and held my hand in the river
to feel the current convect itself
into these spinning wicks of torrent
that cease just inches beyond my hand
as water ceases its separation
in forming a river. If there were need
for belief to make the rush of rivers
true; if I had stood on this bank
to watch it slowly excise itself
the day we held our picnic next to
the mossy green and slowly rotting
wharf, we brought umbrellas and blankets
and your hand moving to take out food
seemed paused in a way that froze
the movement of hand over grass rippled in a
wind; if I could tell you how sunlight
dances on water without ever trying
to be anything but sunlight dancing
the way it might if I dreamed of a river
on a day when we sat beside it
if there had been a river.

I don't
know what things there are to know
about the properties of water
which postulate a chemistry
of bonds that hold us if we feel
a river moving we explain
with something other than the slip
of rain through rocks to rivulets
and common channels; rivers suggest
the flow down to a lowest
point of things which never could be
lowest the way we think of lowness,
the touch of something in water though rivers
might just seem to express the things
we think we see in them; I might
doubt were it not for water
never being exactly where
we see it; do we reach a point
and say "this is a river; this isn't"?
Do we sense the source of things
that move us, closing us in to ourselves,
forming these eddies of union or distance
that disappear when we look at them closely,
become unreal as the river that moves
the way the one I remember moves
since memory makes a river or rivers
make memory, or else I don't know
precisely where two things join—

you and me,
perhaps, forming something like a river
in watching days weather, bring sun or water,
in ways I fail to understand;
the point being that a river cannot
leave you once you see it just as
you can't leave a river since you
never can touch it; the point being
that in this sense of weather and water
and rivulets where the water gathers
I see myself in the moving of these
rivers, and I touch you like water.


The rain

The rain between your fingers
and all the problems held in your fingers
like musty silk

And all the problems held in your fingers
the ancient names of our children
and the drip of the faucet in a rusty sink
the soft rain

Here on the blue and white tablecloth
caught in the last drops in a coffee cup
the last rain
and the heart turning into itself and the heart turning

All I have ever touched is nothing




The voice which falls
out of its own
commanding condemns
the ritual, blends
night to the possible
music whose timbre
colors the sleeve
of reason.

in the loud squawk
of the heron sailing
the woods, the voice
finds meaning in stillness,
the tongue left
to hang itself
like timber in the roof
of the mouth

ensembles of dissonance
fracture the harmonies
toned by the cult
of reason; the voice moves
out of sorrow,
squaring the plains
of the gist, deciphering
plans for attack.

Pater noster, mea culpa,
we know not what we do
in the death of the map.



The way you got out is the way in
or in case you never got there
a key is hidden under the rug
by the trap door where the
alligators live

or perhaps you came here looking for love
or invention or some social proof
of the need for these dangling objects
that break the force fields of respective trends.

Note the momentary correlation
of life with exprerience. Are you amused
by the wealth of death displayed
in the terminal dances of mouseketeers?

Locus hic transit gloria mundi
(among other signs that Latin is lost)
might serve to point us back to each other
out of reach of the key, where the doorbell gets answered.