No doubt the rent includes electricity

Two sonnets by Larry Johnson

Death of Edward Lucas White

  • author of Lukundoo
  • Not while the stars shine on Lake Ponchartrain
  • Will She forgive — he hears it in all dreams
  • While feeling the howling heads root through his brain
  • Before growing pustulant from his pores. Their screams
  • Force his sleeping hand to cut them away,
  • Leaving each a gaping cicatrix. But painful peace
  • Vanishes instantly with conscious day
  • And his unmarked body shudders through pure release.
  • Though he has tried every Latin spell once learned
  • To scour the Congo witchcraft from his mind,
  • Only one sleep is dreamless: the gas, unburned,
  • Sweetish, will smother Her voice and leave him blind
  • To phallic grinning, deaf to those shrieks at last,
  • His bathroom a tile-walled tomb — its silence vast.

H.P. Lovecraft at Lunch

  • You think he muses about Nyarlothotep
  • At lunch? Hell no — he prides himself on how
  • Much money’s saved by cutting a loaf of bread
  • In quarters, mounding each chunk with canned beans.
  • That’s four meals to keep him slim but fit
  • Enough to write by hand or type with lamp
  • On and shades closed — no doubt the rent
  • Includes electricity. Those elder gods
  • Slubbering from his fear of the masses —
  • Negroes, Slavs, Italians, Asian spawn,
  • Concern him little — what he sees below
  • In the plate’s bubble of beans and yeasty clots
  • Is the true madness — his father’s syphilis.

Larry Johnson, born in 1945 in Natchez, MS, is the author of Veins (David Robert Books, 2009) and Alloy (David Robert Books, 2014) and has published poems in many magazines, such as New Orleans Review, the Iowa Review, Chronicles, and Town Creek Poetry. He received the second MFA in poetry ever given at the University of Arkansas. In the fall of 2006 he read a selection of his poems at the Library of Congress. He lives in Raleigh, NC, and teaches at Wake Technical Community College.

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