Two Poems by Johnny Payne


My love’s voice leaves me stricken with an ache
to hear her half-tones rankle my shook bones
disease from which I won’t be vaccinated
not even if her charms seem overblown.
Call me a smitten fool, a bitten clod.
Dig a dirt bier, stuff me in that bung
cover me with peat moss and second-hand sod
but let me listen to my lady’s lungs.
If I were a deaf-mute, I might have no chance
but even then, I’d listen for her song
to stir me into sentience, make me prance
as if a glockenspiel began to bong.
Horns of the gods hard-tootle their decree
that my girl’s pipes were made to remake me.


Laden with ripe and unripe figs, the tree
I rest beneath, blooming, sap-soaked and strong
its leaves like turquoise, with a glassy gleam
provides shade for whoever comes along.
I haven’t stirred yet. I’ve been lying prone
watching gray cloud-shreds whirl and retreat
as though bruised flesh pelted by random stones
from cosmic reaches by a hand unseen.
My fit has fled. I’m ready to rush home.
She’ll cradle my head, kiss the phantom wound
well-made with wasted words twice hard as bone
watch me revive from an afternoon swoon.
I watch for the next new-ripe fig to drop
into my hands, to crush to dark pulp.

Johnny Payne has recently published work in Neon Door, Fast Flesh, Verdad Magazine, Gasher Journal, Sparks of Calliope, Society for Classical Poets, The Chained Muse, Collidescope, Peregrine Journal, The New Lyre, Pulsebeat, Wine Cellar Press, and Soundings East.  His most recent published novels are The Hard Side of the River and Confessions of a Gentleman Killer, which won the IBPA Gold Medal for Horror in 2021.  His books of poetry Vassal and Heaven of Ashes were published by Mouthfeel Press. He has directed his plays Death by Zephyr and Cannibals for Slingshot Players, Los Angeles.

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