Poem of the Week | September 18, 2012

This week we’re featuring another poem from our new Summer issue, 35.2. Kimberly Johnson is the author of two collections of poetry, Leviathan with a Hook and A Metaphorical God, as well as a verse translation of Virgil’s Georgics.  Recipient of grants and awards from the the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, and the Utah Arts Council, Johnson has work recent or forthcoming in The New Yorker, Slate, and New England Review.

Author’s Statement:

[This poem comes from] a series of twelve poems which organize themselves around the hours of the liturgical day, from the matins prayers in the morning to the vespers in the evening and then on through the vigil of the nighttime hours.  The office of Lauds is sung in the early morning, and usually includes the singing of Psalms 148 through 150…I guess I ended up thinking that any celebration in words constitutes an inevitable diminishment of the object of praise.  Which is a bummer of a realization for a poet to have…

The Trumpetvine Clarions to the Honeybees


Another season on beautiful fire.
Another hummingbird needles the bloom-
swung branches of my plumtree, his bleeding
heart of feathers beating at such speed
it seems unbeating, and in the sun’s unclouding
the tanager’s intemperate plumage
flickers at the tree’s equator.  This spring
came on too much like dawn: all at once
with too much noise and color, the sun
so bright the dead are getting jumpy,
upkindling like pasqueflowers
when the green current starts to tendril
through the deciduous flesh of them.  So fierce
these early-season stirrings that I envy
them, the dead, whose ardor is dispersed
and muted by the intermediary soil…:
My senses sway all the way down to the bone
even on dull-lighted days, but O!—spring ignites
that fuse which, as it five-alarms up
the middle of me, would consume those blooms,
the flash-feathered tanager, the plumstained
hummingbird, his luscious and breakneck heart,
the very sun.  Elemental, irresistible,
spring thrusts its coal into my mouth,
and I suck.  Bring on the reckoning:
already, every spring,— every noon!—
I burn like judgment day.