A Poem by Michael Lee Johnson

Picture, Cap and Gown

Cap and gown
history major,
minor in math-
graduation under
the maple tree,
bright red leaves,
but the times don’t show it;
a full face grins.
There’s a shadow
below your nose
above your lips,
it settles into
a gray mixed day.
You stand on farm land
with no plow in hand
or in the distance bare-
no damn cows to be seen
no red barn or damn homestead
just open acres of space-
and downed fences-
and some idle brush
blending with quill feathers
flushed within a background
of branches.
Life is a simple picture.
Life is a simple picture,
repeating with tree shadows
hovering around leaves.
Dirt in the background
dances freely-
it’s here their memories are folded,
into prairie winds.
You are still framed
in solid black and white-
you can’t leave this space on your own,
from now to your own eternity,
to your salvation or your grave.
Your whole life now has spots
and spaces behind it.
Did you grow older and have children?
Did you marry a man of the plow
or that chemist you had the brief
affair with in agricultural school?
Did the graduation certificate
rolled up in your hand
like a squashed turnip,
donut, or dead sea scroll
fade by moisture and sun
or wind up cursed with sand?
I pull down your life
and frame it here
like a stage curtain
handful of future,
present, passed, and pasted
in a space dimension of
3” x 5” tucked beneath
a simple footnote in time.

Picture, Cap and Gown

"Cap and Gown"


About Michael Lee Johnson

Michael Lee Johnson is a poet and editor from Itasca, Illinois who lived for 10 years in Canada during the Vietnam era, and has published in 25 countries. He runs five poetry sites, and his published works are available at http://poetryman.mysite.com.