Luke Johnson: “Parakeet”


My daughter dreams a parakeet falls from an iguana’s mouth, screams

to be woken. I shake. Lift her limp from covers and lay her in a bath

with lavender oil. Darling I whisper Why again?


The pastor warned to send a spirit-shadow out, brings seven more.

Seven rowdy guests with needs like lantern flies. I didn’t listen: Let

a witch prick the place where spirit found solace, steady drip, then

braced for impact: windows slamming shut.


This is what happens when a father disobeys: winds braid violent

in the den of her belly, bloat until she can’t hold down water. She

fevers. Buzzes like hornets swarmed under foot, bites down hard

on your hand—


The doctors say the seizures start when she watches too much television.

Something about shadows and light and the way her pupils recede and

expand, synapse stuffed with halos.


I wrap her in a towel and rock where the window’s blackened. Remember

her dancing a field of dahlia, orchard laden with fruit. This before flies

before fevers before her body a temple that ruptured and burned—the Lord

a liable witness.


Tomorrow she’ll watch her brother leap from branch and break his leg

writhe when doctors reset it. Weep. Pull from her pocket a dead parakeet

point when its head hits the floor.

Luke Johnson’s poems can be found in Kenyon Review, Florida Review, Narrative, Nimrod, Tinderbox, Greensboro Review, Connotation Press, and elsewhere. He was a finalist for both the Pablo Neruda and Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Awards. His chapbook, :boys, was released by Blue Horse Press in 2019.

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