Peter Johnson

My Friend, Nice Socks & The Last Dance
September 23, 2020 Johnson Peter

“My Friend”
My friend wanted to have breakfast at the local strip club. An event called “Legs and Eggs.” He’s a crafty guy, always referring to God as “She.” He has to be on top of everything. He wants to be President someday. And why not? A tomato worm can be President. Just wave the flag and blame immigrants for bad weather and chronic constipation. For that toothache. In contrast, I have to be tugged from sleep each morning. Literally, pried from my pillow. It’s a Buddhist thing. My need to be invisible, even to myself. The strip joint’s roof is in the shape of a breast. It towers over a parking lot alive with the ebb and flow of testosterone. Inside, men with big forearms dip pieces of burnt Wonder Bread into platters of poached eggs while half-naked women cling for dear life to stainless steel poles. I stumble out the door into 100-degree heat. The sky darkens, swollen with the promise of rain, and the fear that a distant dagger of lightning might discover me.

“Nice Socks”
I’m outside the Compassion Center when Jesus arrives. He says, “The hole in the knee of your jeans was merely purchased.” Gibberish of course, but when Jesus talks, you listen. Is it because of the calmness of His voice? The pools of peacefulness in His eyes? I can feel Him reading my mind. It’s like a mule kicking me in the back of my head. Hard not to feel sorry for Him in this weather. Cold slush blanketing the pavement, and He’s wearing His trademark leather sandals. I take off my shoes and offer Him my woolen socks. He puts them on, re-straps His sandals. “People are just doing the best they can,” I say, thinking He’s come back to orchestrate the Final Showdown. He looks up, smiles. “Nice socks,” He says. “I’m beginning to accept what I cannot change,” I say, trying to make a good impression. He looks up again, points to His feet. “Like I said, nice socks.”

“The Last Dance”
I was banned from my senior prom. It was my pre-toenail fungus days when I had decided to stop wearing underwear and could still think in Latin while having a sex act performed on me in a phone booth on a rainy night amid a cacophony of apian shrieks from a nearby zoo. The performance artist was a cute rich girl, who, for at least a month, had been receiving terrible verse poems from me. She wore a short white dress that night, mottled with palm-sized red hearts—one cut out to reveal her navel, which had a mind of its own, intent on staring down tuxedoed boys with a disdain fueled by cheap wine and a few tiny blue pills. The other girls hated her. There were speeches, many sad songs and silly dances, everyone trying hard not to look at her navel, knowing that image would haunt them the rest of their days.

Peter Johnson’s prose poetry has been awarded an NEA and two Rhode Island Council on the Arts fellowships. His second book received the James Laughlin Award from The Academy of American Poets. New books are: Old Man Howling at the Moon (Madhat Press, 2018), A Cast-iron Aeroplane That Can Actually Fly: Commentaries from 80 Contemporary American Poets on Their Prose Poetry, editor (MadHat Press, 2019), and Truths, Falsehoods, and a Wee Bit of Honesty: A Short Primer on the Prose Poem, With Selected Letters from Russell Edson (MadHat Press, 2020). A book of short stories, Shot, was just published in January of 2021 (Madhat Press).