Two poems by Joshua Johnston

Hymn of Healing

Suddenly nostalgic for the year
I subsisted solely on food provided to me
by a charity whose primary purpose
was bolstering the public image
of its celebrity founder. I lost 25 pounds
and developed a skin rash
so beautiful a London fashion house
paid me $10,000 for the rights
to develop a pattern based on it.
The Scandinavians were all the talk,
how they had their shit figured out
in ways we never would.
I spent a lot of time wandering around
museums, feeling like a cargo ship
carrying products whose creation
involved an amount of suffering
its recipients could never begin
to fathom or appreciate. I saw
a mastodon skeleton and wept
for thirty minutes. I looked at a painting
of a river in France and felt nothing.
Someone in the lobby was playing
Brahms on a Casio keyboard.
It was all very spiritual, but not
in too burdensome of a way.
The perfume was said to capture
the scent of the smoke wafting off
the Library of Alexandria.




The Medium

Finally, the dead began to speak,
but in a language neither the medium
nor any of her clients could decipher,
a muffled tongue that billowed in the air
around their heads like a worn-thin banner of vowels.
She was frustrated, but did her best to disguise this
as intense concentration, rubbing her palms
in small, circular motions on the table
and gently rattling the amulets around her neck
with the rhythmic nodding of her head.
When this failed to impress, she tried to convince them
that the presence of a voice was miracle enough
in and of itself (The mere fact that you can even hear
anything places you in hallowed company),
and then that the music of it all was enough
(It really is quite beautiful, almost like a violin
underwater), but it wasn’t. In the end,
she delivered an apology disguised as a pep talk
over the possibilities of the fourth dimension
and passed out small purple envelopes
containing partial refunds to everyone involved.
Still, she made enough for groceries. Not enough
for fresh organic goods from the new place
off the square, but groceries nonetheless.



Joshua Johnston was born and raised in Caneyville, Kentucky. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Sprung Formal, Ninth Letter, Hobart, and Word Riot. He is co-founding editor of Frontier Slumber and currently lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he recently graduated from Indiana University’s MFA program.



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