He never tried to seduce their girls or boys

Two poems by Larry Johnson

In the fall of 2006 Larry Johnson read a selection of his poems at the Library of Congress.
  • In the fall of 2006 Larry Johnson read a selection of his poems at the Library of Congress.

Love Poem

  • Your love is gentle only as the earth is gentle:
  • You are a truth of the myriads her soils
  • And brine can breed, protect with humid fumes,
  • Then obliterate in possessive innocence. Men,
  • Wanting that power but not the burden, seek
  • Abstractions beyond her body’s art — like gods.
  • But gods are men’s sterile uncertainties
  • And frightened hopes — all deity we can know
  • Is earth and what we feel of it: white skies,
  • Leaf-tarnished pools, lips upon lips, our voice.
  • What gods are is what earth is when we love.

Julian at Antioch

  • One reason the emperor’s favor grew estranged
  • Was Antioch, although Christian, seemed unchanged
  • From former times in loving mortal flesh,
  • Yet they objected to his beard and lice.
  • He bathed as much as they, always looked fresh,
  • And though his burning bulls might not smell nice
  • He never tried to seduce their girls or boys.
  • Alas, too moral for their sensual tastes,
  • Seeking judicial business for his joys
  • (Along with planning war in Persian wastes)
  • He bore their hypocritical complaint
  • With dignity, truly a pagan saint,
  • And thus became an apt retaliator —
  • Writing his satire Misopogon, “Beard-hater.”

Larry Johnson, born in 1945 in Natchez, Mississippi, is the author of Veins (David Robert Books, 2009) and Alloy (David Robert Books, 2014) and has published poems in many magazines, such as the 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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