- 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.