by Elsa Johnson



Thou —

                               are the granite                                               and         the cloud —

                               the eagle       and         the fly hatching in the flesh of the kill —


                               the lily                                  and the dung in which it sprouted —


                               the ache in the crotch of the tree where the bough ripped off


                               and                                               the hot rushed flower of spring


                               You are the sun scion                    blinding the day-dark stars —


                               both war-call and whisper

When the sky is turned on itself        When one lies over a barreled bench        like a sacrifice

on the face of the curved earth         with the sky found          in the bottom          of the bowl

under the grassed dome of heaven             You are the world made right         then wrong

then right again :   Life                       and the life it feeds                     and the life that feeds it


germ at the seed’s core                  the last shock of birth                      fresh love’s first stroke

the wound’s whimper                                                                                        a great glad belling        




There is a bench in Forest Hill Park that is shaped like a barrel. If you sit on it and then lie back so that you are draped over it on your back, looking up at the sky with your head in an up-side-down position, looking down the length of the Great Meadow, a curious phenomena occurs: The world becomes a bowl. It is like being inside a snow globe, with the grass that was at your feet now overhead, and the trees reaching into the sky, but the sky now the bottom of a large bowl. The way the ground has directional slope disappears, homogenized by the strength of this bowl perception. I’ve asked various eye doctors why this perception of space as bowl – no one can give me an answer. It any of you, dear readers, have a clue why this might be, please tell us. 

At any rate I’ve tried to write poetry about this phenomena in the past, without success, but recently while writing a poem, I found the barrel bench and its effect creeping in. One of my poet friends calls it a psalm.