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.