L. A. Johnson

Strange Arithmetic

If there had been train whistles,
tonight: almost-silence. In hospital rooms,
I intrude like the gauzy dim of December.

In the hallways, the uneasy feeling of watching
a stranger though a space between shades.

I drive my car towards the mountains
because my phone won’t ring, because my task
is only to wait. A small song comes on the radio.

Beside the freeway, uncounted orange poppies;
a field of nettles braced for drought.

I dream of myself as the scientist, slicing cells
onto rectangles of glass. Carefully inserting
the indicator dyes. The errors of my instruments

transform the membranes into lunar landscapes,
obsidian craters borne of detonation.

I sleep through the day again. Tonight
will pause until the light fades in—offering me
for a little while, the companionship of blueness.


L. A. Johnson is from California. She is the author of the chapbook Little Climates, forthcoming from Bull City Press. She received her MFA from Columbia University and is currently pursuing her PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California, where she is a Provost’s Fellow. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, The Antioch Review, The Iowa Review, and other journals.