Nocturne

by Luke Johnson

Mother warned 

the owls would tear me open, if I 

told the priest 

 

what uncle did those 

humid nights in June. 

 

How my back became 

his shuck & jive 

his witching wind 

 

the slap of spit  

sowed inward & how 

 

the throat though dormant 

clustered with flies

the soot of unfed prayers.

 

ii.

 

I left tithes. 

Little strips of skin 

to procure passing 

 

& mimicked movements 

of nocturnal prey 

 

to move in the streets

setting fire. Once, 

 

iii.

 

after uncle left his breath 

like scissored spackle 

 

& fell asleep 

fondling keys     I stole 

 

his truck to pin the gas 

glide down sleetlight & snow.

 

When an owl alighted(eyes 

conical flames) then started 

 

to flicker shriek 

mirror the form of a man. 

 

Floated before me. 

 

God in the grip of its beak.

About the Author

Luke Johnson lives on the California coast with his wife and three kids. His poems can be found at Kenyon Review, Narrative, Florida Review, Valparaiso Review, Thrush, Tinderbox, Nimrod, Greensboro Review, and elsewhere. He was a finalist for the Pablo Neruda Award, and his chapbook, :boys, was published by Blue Horse Press in 2019.