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poemoftheweek poem of the week


Luke J Johnson

Bee Fennel


I trapped bees in boxes

& carried them to the neighbor’s blind son.


Set them loose. Praised their frantic undulations,

their search for someone to serve,


then left him, bitten, tongue partly swollen,

stomach distended & scabbed. Edit: I did not


simply set them free in the blind boy’s hair. I

wooed them with candy & blew smoke through


a hole in the box until they dropped dizzy.

Plucked their stingers. Drowned the queen


& smiled as her wings folded into soda pop.

Promised the boy a taste of fennel, hot joy


thrumming his throat. He opened. Teeth

clean. Teeth like washed windows. Tasted


my kiss. Unraveled my tongue inside his.


(Originally published in Porter Gulch Review)


Like a Fish Gasping

Did I tell you a boy was walking home from school, when a woman

asked him if he’d like a cup of juice?


Did I tell you Jonah heard his mother’s voice and muted her concern?


Did I tell you the woman grew angry, began to weep, threatened

to follow him home?


Did I tell you Jonah ran?


Did I tell you she set her three dogs free to harm him?


Did I tell you Jonah found his home, but the back door was locked?


Did I tell you Jonah ran?


Did I tell you Jonah never said no, that he found her offer kind, and besides,

she was an elderly woman anyway?


Did I tell you the home was large with locked windows, no dogs?


Did I tell you Jonah sat down, his brow was warm, he needed just a sip?


Did I tell you he had more than a sip?


Did I tell you as he drank his body began to wobble, he fell, that he dreamed

of fish fondled by blades?


Did I tell you he woke with bloody fingers?


Did I tell you he was my friend, he loved fingers, he liked to suck fingers?


Did I tell you Jonah ran? 


Did I tell you he woke with his pants undone and a broom stick up his ass?


Did I tell you Jonah liked fingers?


I offered my fingers, found pleasure, strange pleasure, felt shame, I

silenced the Lord.


Did I tell you I silenced the Lord?


Did I tell you I woke with a sheet over my mouth and Jonah began to piss?


Did I tell you I swallowed piss?


I gasped like a fish out of waves.


Did I tell you I swallowed piss?


Did I tell you Jonah ran, never came home, his body a house

without windows?


Did I tell you Jonah ran?


Did I tell you he put a gun to his head and did what the whispers wanted?


Did I tell you it wasn’t his fault?


(Originally published at


     – to Smitty, Sam, Slick Nic, Mortimer and Dave

In a barn

choked by rusty tools

and ragweed


we stood

in a riotous circle



fetal mice fill

their fresh lungs with air


when Smitty

behind a tribal smile


pulled a blade

from his back pocket


and began

to slice one down the abdomen

with ball point precision


each of us stone-silent

and cold


as Smitty unsnapped

the sternum       

      like a bloody brassiere


then moved toward

the heart

                  a porous drum

                  swelling in his fingers.


(Originally published in the Asheville Poetry Review)

-From :boys, Blue Horse Press, 2019.

Prompt: As in Luke J. Johnson's "Like a Fish Gasping," compose a narrative poem made up almost entirely of questions. As always, have fun.

Bio: LUKE J JOHNSON'S chapbook, :boys, was released July of 2019, with Blue Horse Press. His poems can be found or are forthcoming at Kenyon Review, Florida Review, Narrative, Nimrod, Tinderbox, Connotation, Greensboro Review, and others. He was a Finalist for both the Pablo Neruda Prize and the Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Award, and completed his MFA at Sierra Nevada College.

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