• Max Johnson

147 Lines // Max Johnson

I once wrote of God,

And I lost my audience with God.

I once wrote of love,

And I lost my baby, my darling.

I once wrote of violence,

And you just wouldn’t kill me.

but I can still die for love.

----

Clumsy beasts, wailing in the woods,

will soon lose their audience to wind.

Ships will sink in search of sirens.

God will abandon your chapel

before you can feel pomegranate

dripping from your chin. You will

have so much more to bury. I didn’t want

-----

I didn’t want to tell you this --

my cartoon heart is growing

three sizes too large. Baby, baby,

my darling, my love, my love,

I will die for love, I have before,

baby, baby -- take this beating

thing from me. I lost my

------

My chapel became an outline on wax paper.

I lost my audience with God.

Wet with moss and hemlock,

I became both ship and siren.

I became both beast and burden.

I have so much more to bury,

with each miniature, writ large.

------

I became my audience with God.

An urgent warning on wax paper,

a ship in a bottle, a bag of wind --

all lost in my chapel.

Here, my burden in miniature --

I follow you through the woods,

listening for the sound of your voice.

-----

Baby, baby, my darling unfinished triptych,

there is no such thing as an act

of violence, though my clumsy heart

is dripping from your chin.

The nurses affix a flower to your door

so you won’t need to tell of joy

as you lose your audience my love, my baby, baby.

--------

My audience with God, writ large --

“There is no such thing as dying

for love, but you can enjoy your suffering.

You can tell of joy, but wailing in the woods

will grow your chaotic heart three times its size.

Now, what are your intentions with

a heart three sizes too large?”

-----

Take this beating. Every act of violence

is an act. Take me to the woods.

Cut me down and count my rings.

You squeeze my hand. You listen for the sound of my voice.

Hear, my burden in miniature.

You will abandon your chapel. Every act

of love is an act of memory.

-----

My cartoon heart outlined on wax paper.

My cartoon heart like a clumsy beast.

Unfinished triptych, my clumsy heart

dripping blood like story plot

in the woods. I have so much more

I have lost. I remember my Berrigan --

“There is no such thing as a breakdown.”

------

My chapel became my baby, my baby

stuck in the rain, you will pull a body from the lake

Its lightness like a flower to your door

The pomegranate still dripping from your chin

I followed the sound of your voice

My chaotic heart is an act.

My love you won’t need. To tell of joy

-----

Affix a flower to your door like an act

dripping from your chin. You won’t need to

take me to the woods. Stand in the rain

With no bus in sight.

Squeeze my hand and tell of joy, baby,

baby, my love, my love soon you will pull

a body from the lake.

----

My love, my love became an urgent warning.

The nurses lose their audience, but take this

bag of wind. Its lightness can set your

your burden in miniature. No such thing as

I didn’t want to tell you this. I will die for

my chapel. But what are your intentions

writ large? I became my audience.

-----

What are your intentions? or lose your audience

wailing in the woods. Squeeze my hand

Its lightness a burden in miniature.

Count my rings, but the center does not hold.

My chapel, my love, my clumsy heart,

My unfinished triptych.

My body you pull from the lake,

-----

You just wouldn’t kill me. Where did I

go wrong? was there something I hadn’t thought of

I couldn’t figure out how to make you

You unbeautiful. Cut me down

dripping blood my clumsy heart

of violence. The nurses affix

“No such thing as a breakdown”

----

Enjoy your sweat-sticky love.

You can tell of joy, just squeeze my hand.

I once, like story plot, became a burden.

No such thing as you unbeautiful.

Inconsolable a body of work. You won’t

You won’t need you won’t need. Weren’t we

for the last time? You won’t need you won’t

-----

For the last time, my ship in a bottle,

I once wrote of my ship in a bottle

Now, my chapel in a bottle

Now, my love, my love, in a bottle

You, unbeautiful, in a bottle

Like story plot in a bottle

“No such thing as in a bottle

----

How to make sweat-sticky love:

The pomegranate will drip from your chin

Figure out how to make you unbeautiful

and stain your fingers.

Affix a flower to your chapel.

My darling clumsy beast my baby

Weren’t we just waiting in the rain?

----

I couldn’t figure out how to make

my cartoon heart grow three times its size

Stuck in the rain -- your burden. Weren’t we

wet with moss and hemlock?

Enjoy no bus in sight. You won’t need

my chapel. Lose your audience

clumsy beasts, dripping blood, affix a flower

----

No such thing as I couldn’t figure out

I couldn’t figure out weren’t we

I couldn’t figure out my chapel

I couldn’t figure out “you can enjoy”

The clumsy beasts. I couldn’t figure out

something I hadn’t thought of

but you just wouldn’t kill me.

----

My unfinished sentence, run-on

sentence, sentence like a

wishbone, like a fork in the road

And But Or If, Then clumsy scrawl,

My life as six-word-story sentence:

“Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” Life sentence,

death sentence, affix a flower at the end.

----

Weren’t we just sweat-sticky,

Weren’t we just at your bedside,

Weren’t we just waiting in the rain?

Ink has stained my fingers

for the last time. Unfinished

my chapel of violence. No such thing as

no bus in sight. Pull from the lake

----

When your savior comes, he will be

Both beast and burden. Every act of violence is

An act. No such thing as a fool

In love. No bus in sight, pull my body

For the last time. I didn’t want to tell you

Wailing in the woods. Run on

Sweat-sticky love you won’t need.

------

How to make a chaotic heart:

Pull a body from the lake

Drape a blanket, dry her skin

Draft a confession of joy, like Revelations

And burn it at her bedside

Your chapel something you hadn’t thought of

Your burden a six word story

//

Max Johnson attended the University of Iowa from 2009 to 2013, where he studied poetry. He currently lives in Chicago, where he writes poetry.

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