Poetry from Michael Lee Johnston

Virus in the Air, Spasms in my Back

Audio of the poem
Microscopic image of a coronavirus in a dark red light, surface proteins sticking out

There’s a virus in the air, but I can’t see it.

People are dying around me, but I can’t save them.

There are spikes pierced in my back,

spasms, but I can’t touch them.

Heartbeats, hell pulsating, my back muscles,

I covet in my prayers.

I turn right to the left, in my bed, then hang still.

Nails impaled, I bleed hourly,

Jesus on that cross.

Now 73 years of age, my half-sister 92,

told me, “getting old isn’t for sissies.”

I didn’t believe her—

until the first mimic words

out of “Kipper” my new parakeet’s mouth,

sitting in his cage alone were 

“Daddy, it’s not easy being green.”

Leaves in December

Three photos, one of a white man in a blue jacket, one of an orange leaf on a black and white background, another of a yellow leaf, all against a blue background.

Leaves, a few stragglers in

December, just before Christmas,

some nailed down crabby

to ground frost,

some crackled by the bite

of nasty wind tones.

Some saved from the matchstick

that failed to light.

Some saved from the rake

by a forgetful gardener.

For these few freedom dancers

left to struggle with the bitterness:

wind dancers

wind dancers

move you are frigid

bodies shaking like icicles 

hovering but a jiffy in the sky,

kind of sympathetic to the seasons,

reluctant to permanently go, rustic,

not much time more to play.

Group Therapy

Wind chimes.

Wind chimes.

It’s going to rain tonight, thunder.

I’m going to lead the group tonight talking

about Rational Emotive Therapy,

belief challenges thought change,

Dr. Albert Ellis.

I’m a hero in my self-worship,

self-infused patient of my pain,

thoughtful, probabilistic atheism

with a slant toward Jesus in private.

Rules roll gently creeping

through my body with arthritis 

a hint of mental pain.

Sitting in my 2001 Chevy S-10 truck,

writing this poem, late as usual.

It’s going to rain, thunder

heavy tonight.

Fiction Girl


Drawings, then poems flip over to fiction; 

the flash girl rides this ghost of the invention.

Insecure in youth, switch girl from drawing

to poetry, extension flight, outer fiction space,

yours is a manner of words at work. 

Mercury is a god of movement.

A new skill set, brain twister, releases 100 free plays.

Life is a version of old times, fresh starts, torn yellow pages.

I focused on you last night; I watched your head spin

in sleep, a new playhouse of tree dreams, high shifting.

Changes are leaves; I lift your spirits to the gods of fire,

offer you thunderbolts practice your shooting in heaven

or hell, or toss back to earth.

Change is a choice where your energy flows.

No computer gods will help this poetic journey.

May you cry out loud on route to fairytale creations.

You are the chemist, the mixer girl shifting gears.

Creativity is how the gallery of galaxies cement.

Flash fiction lines cross stars.

Cold Gray (V2)

Below the clouds

forming in my eyes,

your soft eyes,

delicate as warm silk words,

used to support the love I held for you.

Cold, now gray, the sea tide

inside turns to poignant foam

upside down separates-

only ghosts now live between us.

Yet, dreamlike, fortune-teller,

bearing no relation to reality-

my heart is beyond the sea now.

A relaxing breeze sweeps

across the flat surface of me.

I write this poem to you,

neglectfully sacrificing our love.

I leave big impressions

with a terrible hush inside.

Gray bones now bleach with memories,

I’m a solitary figure standing

here, alone, along the shoreline.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, DuPage County, Illinois. Mr. Johnson is published in more than 2,013 new publications, and his poems have appeared in 40 countries. He edits and publishes 10 poetry sites.

Michael Lee Johnson has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards poetry (2015), 1 Best of the Net (2016), 2 Best of the Net (2017), 2 Best of the Net (2018). 223 of his poetry videos are now on YouTube. He is the Editor-In-Chief of the poetry anthologies, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses, and Warriors with Wings: The Best in Contemporary Poetry. Mr. Johnson is a member of the Illinois State Poetry Society.