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From Which Place the Morning Rises

Poems by: Michael Lee Johnson

Which Place the Morning Rises Poems by: Michael Lee Johnson Michael Lee Johnson is a poet,

Michael Lee Johnson is a poet, freelance writer, and author of The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom, He has also published two previous chapbooks of poetry which can be found at: or . He was nominated for the James B. Baker Award in poetry, Sam's Dot Publishing, and is a contributor in the Silver Boomers poetry anthology. He has been published in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, Turkey, Fuji, Nigeria, Algeria, Israel, Africa, India, United Kingdom, Republic of Sierra Leone, Nepal, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Poland, and Malaysia. Michael Lee Johnson is a member of Poets & Writers, Inc and Directory of American Poets & Fictions Writers: He is a member of The Illinois Authors Directory. Illinois Center for the Book:

Michael Lee Johnson presently resides in Itasca, Illinois. He lived in Canada during the Vietnam era and was published as a contributing poet in the anthology Crossing Lines: Poets Who Came to Canada in the Vietnam War Era, May 2008.

This array of poems is all new since The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom. This is the third chapbook of poems Michael Lee Johnson has published.

Visit his website at: He is the publisher and editor of four poetry and flash fiction sites: Poetic Legacy, ; Birds By My Window: Willow Tree Poems ,; A Tender Touch & A Shade of Blue,; and Wizards Of The Wind,


Table of Contents

Indolent Sun Forked in Itasca

The Christians Arrived

I Brew in Broth

Bloodshot in my Medical Lies, Eyes

Mother Edith, at 93 (Version 3) Poem from My Grave Hanging Together in Minnesota No One is Here Bread Crumbs for Starving Birds (Version 1) Bread Crumbs for Starving Birds (Version 2) Bowl of Petunia’s Bird Feeder Tiny Sparrow Feet Manic is the Dark Night In the Garden Where the Flowers Grow Twist My Words


Cinquain Poems, and Near Cinquain Poems Days Pass


Nothing to Do No Lights (Version 1) No Lights (Version 2) No Lights (Version 3)

Willow Tree Night and Snowy Visitors

I Trip on My Poems (Version 1)

I Trip on My Poems (Version 2) Charley Plays a Tune

Rod Stroked Survival with a Deadly Hammer Harvest Time

I Hide my Craft

Mindful, Mindless, October Date Jesus Walks Gingerbread Lady Cat Purrs I’m a Riverboat Boy: Poem on Halsted Street

Catch On the Fly



From Which Place the Morning Rises is the follow up chapbook to The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom. The author is no longer in exile, unless exile is considered old age. Here you will find some of the best recent and pungent poems the author has ever written; some of which hopefully will stand up to the test of time.


I dedicate this chapbook of poetry to Carol Marcus, John Balaskas, Dawn Edder, and Claudia Moore.

These people have put up with reading my poetry, wading through all my emails about poems, acceptances, rejections, and pure nonsense. To these people I’m truly indebted; without them, life and times would be more difficult.


Indolent Sun

In early March an indolent sun persists in tossing volunteer rays of soft flickering sun silk through dark desolate willow tree branchesmelting remnants of snow diamond crystals from weathered wooden planks on my balcony. I’m starting to think life is an adjective exaggerated by the sway of seasons. It is normal feeding time. Below two floors wild Canadian geese wait impatientlyfor the tossing of morning feed; the silent sound they hear, no dropping of the seed.



Forked in Itasca

I am so frustrated

I want to chew

the dandruff out of the internet hair implant and dislodge it, for a lost love affair I never cared about and hardly knew.

Don’t tell me about my sentence structure,

I am human in these simple words.

I swear to you I curse.

Then the ram of my affair falls short frustrating my approach to the world

at my fingertips. No Yellow Pages here my love. The dial up of my local connection is wretched, stuck unincorporated in the land I approved to live in, monopolized by Comcast the

robbers of the poor and the humbled. All I hear is the rambling of the railroad tracks.

I grow numb in my deafness faint with my hearing. Did I ask for your opinion?

I am a frustrated foreign camper in my own community. Of a village I don’t live in,

but I love this local village I lie about.

I am estranged.

I tie knots in contradictions

when I travel light and far, visit home I long for a journey past where I have never been. Is this the reason I am lost forked in between the poet I think I am and the working man my bills dictate?

been. Is this the reason I am lost forked in between the poet I think I



The Christians Arrived

Salvation Army and the Christians arrived today, Christmas, like every other Sunday morning feed the homeless, chasing the rats from the bathroom, basement, kicking the dead flies out of the corner spots where the cat used to loungeclean the toilet bowl, a form of revival and resurrection.

I privately pastor to these desires though I myself am homeless. I forgot what it’s like to be a poet of the cloth, savior in street clothing with a warm home to blend into.

I watch them clamp the New Testament in one hand,

And pull a cancer stick out of the pocket with the other. It’s all a matter of praising the Lord. Everything is nonsense when you’re in a place where you don’t belong.

Even praying to Jesus from a dirty dusted pillow seems strange and bewildering. Someday I will walk from this place and offer spare meals by myself to others; feed the party in between the theology, the bingo of sins and salvation.

I forgot the taste of a Stromboli Sandwich with a six pack of Budweiser

with or without the Chicago Bearsit would make every Sunday a Salvation Army holiday. Today is a fairy creating miracles from the dust of the floor multiplying fish and chips, baked ham, ribs with sauce Chi-Town type, dark color of greens and veggies tip me to the Christian clock on the wall peeking down on lost and unsaved.

I feel like a fragment.

A birth date the way again to begin, fragmented. Pinto beans mixed with graffiti fingers, Christians arrived on Christmas day

they always do every Sunday morning.

I pastor to these desires.

It’s all a matter of praising the Lord.

The Christians arrived today.



I Brew in Broth

When the silence of my life tickles in darkness delves into my daily routine caught in my melancholy music at times, not exact; then exuberant auto racing playing at times, not exact−

a new poem published or a kick in the asskick smacks like tornado alley in the tomato can left over paste of my emotions at times, not exact;

I realize the split of legacy,

of loyalty on its knees fractured like a comma or sentence fragment, naked like a broken egg between friendship and hatred,

I stew like beef broth


sort of liked, sort of hated, not exact.



Bloodshot in my Medical Lies, Eyes

Bloodshot American medical eyes, lies. The bloodshot in my eyes creates sling shot of a corrupt medical culture. Private medical is a sinful devil that eats riches and leaves those in need behind, 54 million left behind, far from the mission of Christ, or the oath they based their medical degree upon. Blood shoot, sling shot, old fashion mafia connections, a symptom, a collapsing structure, damn crooks with lab vests on. They love talk about premiums, exclusions, pre-existing conditions. Toss your medical blood rag over the wallets of sole proprietors, small businesses. Doctors and insurance companies are vampires sucking the sweat off your balls. It’s an innocent killing, imagery tossed in the jock like Bengay or red hot chili peppers.



Mother, Edith, at 98

Edith, in this nursing home blinded with macular degeneration, I come to you with your blurry eyes, crystal sharp mind, your countenance of graceas yesterday's winds I have chosen to consume you and take you away.

"Oh, where did Jesus disappear to, she murmured, over and over again, in a low voice dripping words like a leaking faucet:

"Oh, there He is my Angel of the coming."



Poem from My Grave

Don’t bring the rosary beads it’s too damn late for doing repetitions. Eucharist, I can handle the crackers and wine; I love the Lord just like you. Catholicism circles itself with rituals

ground hogs and squirrels dancing with rosary beads, naked in the sun and the night, eating the pearls and feeling comfortable about it. Rituals and rosary beads are indigestible even the butterflies go coughing in the farmer’s cornfields. Cardinal George, Chicago, would choke on the damn things; some of his priests would have thought it a gay orgasm or piece remote found in scripture from Sodom & Gomorrah. But my bones in ginger dust lie near a farm in DeKalb, Illinois, where sunset meshes corn with a yellow gold glow like rich teeth. My tent is with friends where we said prayers privately like silent moonlight. Farmers touch the face of God each morning after just one cup of Folgers coffee Columbian blend, or pancakes made with water and batter, sparse on the sugar. Sometimes I would urinate on dry matted pine needles, near the tent, late at night, before the hayride, speak to the earth and birds like gods. Never did I pull the rosary beads from my pocket. It’s too late, damn it, for rosary beads and repetitions.

Never did I pull the rosary beads from my pocket. It’s too late, damn it, for



Hanging Together in Minnesota

Two thousand men on death row in the state of Texas. I've never been here, still I'm worrying myself to death.

Webs of worry travel fast, scan over my memory bank back and forth like a copy machine.

I refuse to get out of my bed

I'm covered with burnt dream ashes held in custody my cobwebbed anxiety sheets waiting for the lurking armed system of justice to take me away. Their loud speakers keep screaming channeled commands vibrating through my eardrums; their messages keep cross-firing against my own desires.

There must be a warrant out for my arrest.

I will not listen, period. I will shut out the sounds period. Insanity echoes with stressed sounds.

It's Sunday morning, prayer time, I swear I will block out the church bells ringing on Franklin Avenue, ringing at St. Paul's Baptist Church.

Religion confuses me like poetry or prose.

I curse I will hang where Christ used to dangle;

on a wooden cross, post in a Roman Catholic hole, or was it protestant reformation?

But, I'm the thief, not the Savior.

I don't want to die in my worry, my words, stranger in this world alone.

I want to resurrect the dream before the wounds arrive, and placed me in exile.

There must be a warrant out for my arrest, long before the sounds of cell phones came ringing. Mixed in war, thunder, and sentence fragment I lie here.


No One is Here

I walk in a poem

late at night that sings no sober song,

no lyrics for the living, toss in a few lines for the dead. It fetters my anger with hostility and sticky jam between my toes and worn out shoes.

I find myself walking 2300 South Western

Avenue in Chicago at 3 A.M. like a damn dummy; thinking of Mayor Daley's sales tax proposals, lack of health care in this country unlike anywhere else in the free world, and some boxers who shoplifted some goods out of Marshal Fields department store earlier this evening- no one is here to spit at me, to fist my face in brick, or steal my wallet giggle,

or my car keys or jiggle coins out of my jean pockets. Disgusting, it hangs,

it beats metal drums in my inner ears, over and embeds, like an RK 47 going off. Loneliness is an elbow plunged in one’s ribcage at night.

I get in my car, bruised,


go home− wait for God, sprinkle prays, the fairy dust of healing. Go about, the next day, my visitations, crusades for the world. No one is here.



Bread Crumbs for Starving Birds

(Version # 1)

Stretched across the ravine, the walking bridge is covered with snow. Steam lifts from the narrow river bed below. The hand guided ropes are glazed over with ice. Raccoon tracks are pepper sprinkled in front of me like virgin markers leaving a fresh, first trail. Once across, and safe, I toss yellow bread crumbs across white snow for starving birds.


a fresh, first trail. Once across, and safe, I toss yellow bread crumbs across white snow


Bread Crumbs for Starving Birds

(Version #2)

Smiling across the ravine, snow cloaked footbridge. Prickly ropes slick with ice, snow clad boards pepper sprinkled with raccoon tracks, virgin markers,

a fresh first trail.

Across and safe,

I toss yellow bread crumbs

onto white snow, for starving birds.



Bowl of Petunias

If you must leave me please leave me for something special, like a beautiful bowl of petuniasfor when the memories leak and cracks appear and old memories fade, flowers rebuff bloom, sidewalks fester weeds and we both lie down separately from each other for the very last time.


rebuff bloom, sidewalks fester weeds and we both lie down separately from each other for the


Bird Feeder






first flight

from balcony

to tree limb.

A chip of corn falls

from the feeder

to the ground.


born just a sparrow − first flight from balcony to tree limb. A chip of corn


Tiny Sparrow Feet

It's calm. Too quiet. My clear plastic bowl

serves as my bird feeder.

I don't hear the distant scratching, shuffling of tiny sparrow feet,

the wing dances, fluttering, of a hungry morning's lack of big band sounds.

I walk tentatively to my patio window, spy the balcony with detective eyes.

I witness three newly hatched

toddler sparrows, curved nails, mounted deep, in their mother's dead, decaying back. Their childish beaks bent over elongated, delicately, into golden chips, and dusted yellow corn.


decaying back. Their childish beaks bent over elongated, delicately, into golden chips, and dusted yellow corn.


Manic is the Dark Night

Deep into the forest the trees have turned black, and the sun has disappeared in the distance beneath the earth line, leaving the sky a palette of grays sheltering the pine trees with pitch-tar shadows. It is here in this black and sky gray the mind turns psycho tosses norms and pathos into a ground cellar of hell, tosses words out through the teeth. "Don't smile or act funny, try to be cute with me; how can I help you today out of your depression?" I feel jubilant, I feel over the moon with euphoric gaiety. Damn, I just feel happy! Back into the wood of somberness, back into the twigs, sedated the psychiatrist scribbles, notes, nonsense on a pad of yellow paper:

"Mania, oh yes, mania, I prescribe lithium, do I need to call the police?" No sir, back into the dark woods I go. Controlled, to get my meds. I twist and rearrange my smile, crooked, to fit the immediate need. Deep in my forest the trees have turned black again, to satisfy the conveyerthe Lord of the dark wood.


need. Deep in my forest the trees have turned black again, to satisfy the conveyer −


In the Garden Where the Flowers Grow

I want to take Islam where their God has not been before- to the garden of Jesus, olive oil presses, Gethsemanetrees, flowers, fruits, vegetables didn’t poison anyone there. Passion was sweat on the ground and brow. There weren’t darts of hate, misconception or terrorism; children on their knees five times a day some brainwashed to hate. Christ didn’t lead them astray nor make them pagan pink. There is no God apart from Allah, and Mohammed is the Prophet, but it’s Jesus who makes the garden grow with or without water. Then and now, the apples grow in my garden of forgiveness. Figs trees grow far away where I can’t reach them but believe in them. Like the Tamarisk tree, Christ is a source of honey, manna and wafer, a taste so sweet in the desert so dry. You don’t have to be a scholar to write poetry, religion, or understand the Eucharist; but you need to be a real saint to know the difference. Islam, is Judas Iscariot among your converts nose pointed toward Mecca today? I want to take Islam where their God has not been beforeto the garden where the flowers grow.


Mecca today? I want to take Islam where their God has not been before − to


Twist My Words

I see the spring dance all over your face in green you were arrogant before you viewed my willow tree outside my balcony. Now you wave at me with green fingers and lime smiles. You twist my words, Harvard collegiate style, right where you want them to belime green, willow tree, and dark skinned branches.




Do what I tell you to do your face is like flour dough your nose like a slant directionally unknown like an adverbtossed into space. Your hat is like an angel wedding gown draped over vodka body like a Christ shield protecting you in innocence. It is here I kiss your lips as a total stranger; bring myself closely to your eyes; camp out on your narrow lips and wait for the morning before I slide like a sled deep snow, away.


to your eyes; camp out on your narrow lips and wait for the morning before I


Cinquain Poems, and Near Cinquain Poems

Days Pass

Days pass, Cold is winter, At night birds hide in trees. Doves at bird feeder don't count days. No cares.



In spring Last snowflake falls Temperature is rising If it knew how long it lasts, why bother?


Nothing to Do

Summer As the world burns, Nothing else to do, but Step into liquid cool waves And swim.



No Lights

(Version 1)

Depressed, No lights inside, No lights outside of me, Blood dripping from my eyelids Alone


No Lights

(Version 2)

Depressed No lights inside An eternal catnap Blood dripping from my eyelids Alone


No Lights

(Version 3)

Depressed No lights inside An external catnap Blood dripping from my eyelids Alone



Willow Tree Night and Snowy Visitors

Winter is tapping on the hollow willow tree’s trunk− a four month visitor is about to move in and unload his messy clothing and be windy about itbark is grayish white as coming night with snow fragments the seasons. The chill of frost lies a deceitful blanket over the courtyard greens and coats a ghostly white mist over yellowed willow leave’s widely spaced teeth− you can hear them clicking like false teeth or chattering like chipmunks threatened in a distant burrow. The willow tree knows the old man approaching has showed up again, in early November with ice packed cheeks and brutal puffy wind whistling with a sting.


has showed up again, in early November with ice packed cheeks and brutal puffy wind whistling


I Trip on My Poems

(Version 1 Revised)

In the night when poems are born, I search for no one but the hidden words. Conjunctions are just meeting places like personal ads for wild women. Even my lady friend criticizes me for being uncreative, disconnected,

a time degenerate.

The secrets stretch inside my metaphors, I

can’t find them all.

I miss spell check;

grammar is a liar; syntax is drug substance I refuse to understand. I’m a trouble-free minded poet with the training of an uncultivated monster;

I chew on my experiences, go back

to the prey, the kill, usually alone and spit.

But I have no sense of formality. Even near my tender moments when the images blossom into rain flowers

I trip on stems cut my way loose to nowhere.

I go there to see what I can find.



I Trip on My Poems

(Version 2 Revised)

In the night when poems are born, I search for the hidden words, secrets stretch inside my metaphors Even near my tender moments when the images blossom into rain flowers I trip on stems cut my way loose to nowhere. I go there to see what I can find.



Charley Plays a Tune

Crippled with arthritis and Alzheimer’s, in a dark rented room Charley, plays melancholic melodies on a dust filled harmonica he found abandoned on a playground of sand years ago by a handful of children playing on monkey bars. He now goes to the bathroom on occasion, peeing takes forever; he feeds the cat when he doesn’t forget where the food is stashed at. He hears bedlam when he buys fish at the local market and the skeleton bones of the fish show through. He lies on his back riddled with pain, pine cones fill his pillows and mattress; praying to Jesus and rubbing his rosary beads Charley blows tunes out his celestial instrument notes float through the open window touch the nose of summer clouds. Charley overtakes himself with grief and is ecstatically alone. Charley plays a solo tune.



Rod Stroked Survival with a Deadly Hammer

Rebecca fantasized that life was a lottery ticket or a pull of a lever, that one of the bunch in her pocket was a winner or the slots were a redeemer; but life itself was not real that was strictly for the mentally insane at the Elgin Mental Institution. She gambled her savings away on a riverboat stuck in mud on a riverbank, the Grand Victoria, in Elgin, Illinois. Her bare feet were always propped up on wooden chair; a cigarette dropped from her lips like morning fog. She always dreamed of traveling, not nightmares. But she couldn't overcome, overcome, the terrorist ordeal of the German siege of Leningrad. She was a foreigner now; she is a foreigner for good. Her first husband died after spending a lifetime in prison with stinging nettles in his toes and feet; the second husband died of hunger when there were no more rats to feed on, after many fights in prison for the last remains. What does a poet know of suffering? Rebecca has rod stroked survival with a deadly mallet. She gambles nickels, dimes, quarters, tokens tossed away, living a penniless life for grandchildren who hardly know her name. Rebecca fantasized that life was a lottery ticket or the pull of a lever.



Harvest Time

(Version 4 Final)

A Métis Indian lady, drunk,

hands blanketed over as in prayer, over a large brown fruit basket naked of fruit, no vine, no vineyard insideapproaches the Edmonton,

Alberta adoption agency. There are only spirit gods inside her empty purse.

Inside, an infant, refrained from life,

with a fruity wine sap apple wedged like a teaspoon

of autumn sun

inside its mouth.


shallow pool of tears starts


mount in native blue eyes.

Snuffling, the mother offers

a slim smile, turns away. She slithers voyeuristically through near slum streets,

and alleyways, looking for drinking buddies


share a hefty pint


applejack wine.



I Hide my Craft

I hide my craft

under the armor of the armadillotucked beneath its armpit, hovering near it’s stomach with insects buzzing noon day sun issues and indigestion-

away from the editors punitive critics, and pay on demand print money mongrels; cold bacon and lard under the pages between poems and the words stick I write


with a scent or odor.

I look up at the sky

and giggle my nerves

like gold chains waiting for the next editor to tell me

my mind doesn’t work, flow with my words quite right.

I count them one

by one those for me on one

side; those against me on the other.

I hide my craft

under the armor of the armadillo.



Mindful, Mindless, October Date

Mindful of my lover running late, as common as tying your shoestrings; I’m battered as an armadillos shell;

I put my bands around my emotional body

armor native to myself and walk like a stud in darkness.

Everything in October has a shade of orange you know

a hint of witch and goblin.

In the leaves between my naked feet

and toes, as I pace my walk in the parking lot,

I count them

I count them color chart fragments and bites:

oranges, reds, still mostly greens. Barefooted the time of the tears, the year fragmented.

I am male battered in a relationship

tested without my testosterone no sexual rectification or recharging of my batteries needed.

I lie limp.

Native to myselfmindless of my lover running late.

Then she arrives.



Jesus Walks

Jesus lives in a tent not a temple coated with blue velvet sugar He dances in freedom of His salvation with the night and all days bearing down with sun. He has billions of ears hanging from His head dangling by seashores listening to incoming prayers. Sometimes busy hour’s drive Him near crazy with buzzing sounds. He walks near desert bushes and hears wind tunnels pushed by pine stinging nettles. Here in His sacred voice a whisper and Pentecostal mindconfused by hints of Catholicism and prayers to Mary- He heals himself in sacred ponds tossing holy water over himself Touching nothing but humanity He recoils and finishes his desert walk, desolate, alone.

holy water over himself Touching nothing but humanity He recoils and finishes his desert walk, desolate,


holy water over himself Touching nothing but humanity He recoils and finishes his desert walk, desolate,


Gingerbread Lady

Gingerbread lady, no sugar or cinnamon spice, years ago arthritis and senility took their toll. Crippled mind movies in then out, like an old sexual adventure, blurred in an imagination of finger tip thoughtswho in hell remembers the characters? There was George her lover near the bridge at the Chicago River she missed his funeral, her friends were there. She always made feather light of people dwelling on death. But black and white she remembers well. The past is the present; the present is forgotten, who remembers, Gingerbread lady? Sometimes lazy time tea with a twist of lime. Sometimes drunken time screwdriver twist with clarity. She walks in scandals sometimes she walks in soft night shoes. Her live-in maid smirks as Gingerbread lady gums her food, false teeth forgotten in a custom imprinted cup with water, vinegar, and ginger. The maid died. Gingerbread lady looks for a new maid. Years ago arthritis and senility took their toll. Yesterday, a new maid walked into the nursing home. Ginger forgot to rise out of bed, no sugar, or cinnamon toast.



Nikki Purrs

Soft nursing 5 solid minutes of purr paw peddling like a kayak competitor against ripples of my 60 year old river rib cage I feel like a nursing mother but I’m male and I have no nipples. Sometimes I feel afloat. Nikki is a little black skunk, kitten, suckles me for milk, or affection? But she is 8 years old a cat. I’m her substitute mother, afloat in a flower bed of love, and I give back affection freely unlike a money exchange. Done, I go to the kitchen, get out Fancy Feast, gourmet salmon, shrimp, a new work day begins.

a money exchange. Done, I go to the kitchen, get out Fancy Feast, gourmet salmon, shrimp,


a money exchange. Done, I go to the kitchen, get out Fancy Feast, gourmet salmon, shrimp,


I’m a Riverboat Boy:

Poem on Halsted Street

As sure as church bells Sunday morning, ringing

between Halsted and State Street,


these memories will be soon forgotten.

I stumble in my life with these words

like broken sentences.

I hear and denounce myself in the distance, mumbling chatter off my lips.

Fragments and chips. Swearing at the parts of me I can’t see;

walking away rapidly from the spiritual thoughts of you.

I am disjointed, separated from my Christian belief. I feel like I’m at the bottom of sinner’s hill playing with my fiddle, flat fisted and busted. So you sing in the gospel choir; sang in Holland, sang in Belgium, from top to bottom, the maps, continents, atlas are all yours.

I detach myself from these love affairs

drive straight, swiftly, to Hollywood Casino, Aurora, IL. Play fragments and chips.

I guess we gamble in different casinos,

in different corners of God’s world, you with church bingo; and I’m a riverboat boy. No matter how spiritual I’m once a week, I can’t take you where my poems don’t follow me. Church poems don’t cry.


how spiritual I’m once a week, I can’t take you where my poems don’t follow me.


Catch On the Fly

Full barrel up 53 north, heading to Lake Zurich, IL, Christian talk radio 1660 on the radio dial, crisp winter day sunbeams dancing down on the pavement like midgets. 85 mph in a 65 mph zone, just to aggravate the police, black Chevy S10 pick up, shows what a deviant I am in dark colors. Running late for a client appointment, creating poems on a small hand held recorder knowing there is not payment for this madness in this little captured taped area of words. Headlights down the highway for a legacy into the future, day dreaming like a fool obsessed. Working out the layout of this poem or getting my ego in place, I will catch up with the imagery when I get back home. This is my life, a poem in the middle of the highway. Scampering, no one catches me when I'm speeding like this.




Originally published by: What to Wear During an Orange Alert”, Orange Alert Press,, editor, Jason Behrends.

1. Last year you published a full length collection of poems entitled,

The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom, what can you tell us about your collection?

It was an accumulation of poems dating back to 1967 that I had carried on my back in Canada, in exile, during the Vietnam War era. Many of the poems remained in a cardboard box for many years untouched. With the advent of the internet to sublimate the snail mail approach I decided to try to publish them off napkins, tainted yellow paper, etc.

2. Having been published in both print and on-line formats, do you feel one carries more weight or is

more legitimate then the other?

This is an interesting question. I love print format; but, I realize online is the wave of the future due to little profit in the poetry artistic world to the poet or the publisher. Traditionally, print publications lasted longer and you had a solid piece of "hardware" in your hands. Many internet publishers come and go and are replaced as quickly so I keep a detailed credential list of both. But, as times change, print publications are disappearing one by one and the net is the wave of the future. I only wish I knew how it will evolve so I could be a mind reader into the future of God's plan for us all.

3. You also record audio version of your poems. Do you feel poetry is meant to be heard as well as read?

Do you feel your poems are more effective in an audio format?

This is a question I love. I have a good audio voice and for many years practiced the wonderful voice of Carl Sandburg, my idol. I think Mp3 and other variations of technology to come will, in fact, be the future; but, I'm 61 years old what does an old man know about the future? I'm all for it.

4. You are publisher of four different literary sites. Why four sites, and how did you decide to enter the

world of on-line lit publishing?

These are wonderful questions since they challenge my sanity. I work full-time, self-employed to survive, I run four individual poetry sites, try to write, and keep up with my long-term lady friendship, a brilliant lady--Carol Marcus, (a wonder photographer-volunteer of her time for over 40 years to the community of Villa Park and a good writer herself), love my cat Nikki, and pray a lot to Jesus Christ my Lord when I'm not swearing too much! But to the questions: I have grown to love editors (for the most part) and poets who devote their spare time out of "love not money" for the advancement of literature in a society that doesn't read that much anymore. I also learn from others writings and enjoy the angles of

their words and thoughts-they stimulate me

different formatting of the websites themselves; but, mostly due to the different themes and levels of submissions, including content. I tend to place poems according to the way I feel. If nature poems come in about willow trees, they go to place; if they are love and romance related they tend to go to another

site; if they are science fiction oriented or mystical they tend to go to another place, and so on. Put simply, I'm happy with the four sites, but I don't want anymore!


reciprocal relationship. Why four sites? It’s partly due to

5. The anthology called "Crossing Lines" sounds fascinating. Was there a community of writers that

traveled north at that time? Did you write about your experience at the time?


I love your questions. It was published in May 2008. Yes, I wrote many poems in Canada in exile. I

love Canada even though I was somewhat deranged emotionally at the time. Who in their right mind can deny the advantages of universal health insurance when you have 54 million Americans without access to

a hospital in the United States? But war resisters didn't tend to hang together but did find refuge with many fine Canadian families who believed in the anti-Vietnam movement at that time. Writers tended to cluster in the Vancouver, Victoria Island area and the islands in-between the mainland and Vancouver Island. But I was not a joiner. I went my own way, and I don't regret it.

6. What's next for Michael Lee Johnson?

I'm not a good writer. My spelling is terrible, my grammar is worse, my syntax is beyond belief. I actually failed creative writing in undergraduate school at Lethbridge University, Lethbridge, Alberta. It was a pass, fail course, I failed. I find it ironic now that many professors are sending me their work. I'm not into poetry for money (damn it!), but I'm into poetry for legacy. It's my desire after I have left this world, in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord, (when I'm not swearing so much) that I leave a body of work that will be shined upon after I have left this world. I can think of no greater contribution; but, I would only be laughed at this point.

Bonus Questions:

1. Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in Itasca? How about the best cup ever?

Damn, I love these questions! No, not Starbucks, though one is just down the street to the East on Irving Park Rd. The best cup of coffee, in Itasca, is at Michael Lee Johnson's condo. I blend, I pour, I mix all

kinds of Coffee Matea disaster as Carol, my friend, reminds me of each Sunday morning! Creme Brulee, etc. full of bad unhealthy things!

2. What type of music do you enjoy? Do you listen to music when you write?

I listen to nothing when I write but God, myself and my spirit. I love music, mostly old time rock and roll and Patsy Cline exemplified my friend John Balaskas, Fifth Avenue band. If you need a good band call for wedding, engagements, etc, they are the best: 847-297-2463. Good old and new stuff! They have a wonderful female singer, Kris.


Many Of The Poems In This Chapbook Have Appeared In Small Presses Below.


Poetry Cemetery, The Smoking Poet, Semaphore: Signals in the Distance, Midnight Times, Word, Bewildering Stories, Events Quarterly, Now Events Weekly, Alone Togethers Weblog, Why Vandalism?, The Cerebral Catalyst, Scars Publications and Design, Tales From the Moonlit Path, Ken*Again, Happy Spring Equinox!, Wild Violet: An Online Quarterly Literary Magazine, Covert Poetics, Pen Himalaya, The Fifteen Project, First Thought, Censored Poets, Café Del Soul, The Cynic Online Magazine, A Southern Journal, Oplus (Sam Smith: The Journal), Ardent Journal of Poetry, Pens On Fire, Yellow Mama, American Poets Abroad, The Houston Literary Review, Ink Sweat & Tears, Demon Minds, Mademoiselle's Fingertips, Static Movement, Poets, Above Ground Testing, Kritya (Poetry In Our Time), A Creative Outlet, Deadbeat Press, Panic! Poetry, Heroin Love Songs, Vol. 2, Iddie: A Literary Journal For Creative Thinkers, Poetry Sz:demystifying mental illness, Long Story Short, Ovi Magazine, Official Site of Laura Hird, A Literary and Arts Magazine, Letterfounder/Answer Shirker, One Real Story, Monkey Kettle (UK), O Sweet Flowery Roses, Gloom Cubboard, POCKET CHANGE ~Poetry & Art Journal, The Hiss Quarterly, Rattlesnake Press, Decanto, Masque Publishing, C&R Press, Poet’s Ink Review, Sketchbook: A Journal for Eastern & Western Short Forms, Snakeskin Poetry Webzine, Read This Magazine, The Penwood Review, Silver Boomers Anthology (Freckles to Wrinkles), Naugatuck River Review, The Write Gallery Creative Writing Web Site, Aireings Poetry Magazine, Tinfoildresses Poetry Journal, The Linnet's Wings,, American Diversity Report, Mississippi Crow, The Curious Record, Southern Ocean Review, Thorny Locust, Flutter Poetry Journal, and The New Verse News.

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