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Welcome to Dreaming Heart ArtWork's  new Provocative Poetry Page. We are honored and pleased to feature these selected poems from Cathleen Cole Johnstone, a very gifted and stirring writer. 

Better Day
Forgiveness
Open Season
The Man in the Picture 
The Wind
Untitled

Train Track
The Jesus That I Knew

 

 

Better Day 

by Cat Cole Johnstone

 

put down my smokes, and prayed for a better day
when the sun would rise in the east
and then set in the west�
and the colors and the landscape would shift,
accordingly.  Sometimes, I imagined,
it would rain, and people all around the world
would sleep in, listening to it beat against the
roofs, smelling the soft wet aroma,
snuggling closer to the one they love
or maybe just a pillow. 

threw away my smokes and waited for a better day
when the seasons would rotate between the cold
and the warm, and the grasses and the flowers
and the color of the sky would change,
accordingly.  I can almost imagine the sensation
of summer:  the smell of honeysuckle and fresh cut hay,
the silent swoop of a red tail hawk across the tops
of sunlit pine,  the pleasure of stretching ones arms
and expressing an early morning yawn. 

put away my smokes and  I am waiting for a better day.
They say that I�ve gone mad, that this is all there is.
They shake their heads and their fingers at me in disgust.
I shield my eyes and retreat into my own little world,
singing out loud to block out their voices,
and I sing a little prayer, yea.
I sing out loud a little prayer, yea.
I am waiting for a better day.

 

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Forgiveness 

by Cat Cole Johnstone 

 

Things there are that rise
into a less cluttered space
Each branch of the tree
Each blade of grass.  Even
the water, unseen, leaves its river domain
in search of sanctuary elsewhere.
They say that leaves fall, and rain too
But I see it more as a roundabout
way.  Like the falling star
or the flickering flame
First diving in retreat, awaiting
a better day.  Preparing for
an alternative way.
Things there are that choose to rise
in search of clearer, brighter skies.

 

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Open Season 

by Cat Cole Johnstone 

 

It�s open season on tourists.
They litter our streets with their children;
their cars, weighed down with suitcases
and cheap souvenirs.
They fill up our restaurants
and want to know why we don�t carry
their brand of beer. 

I shot one once.
Caught her in the headlights of my car
as she attempted to cross
without right of light.
She froze, midway, in a rather gothic pose;
her flip-flop feet melting into the tar,
her knees bent slightly as if any second
she might regain her senses
and spring to safety. 

But not today. 

In September, they melt away.
The streets are clear, the movie house
nearly empty.  I rub my hands across
my apron, checking the stash that is
my make for the night:
ask Joe to kill the lights.
We watch the last one leave
without a fight.
Clock says 2 a.m.
Pour myself a shot of gin.
Lick the last smudge
of blood � from my chin.

 

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The Man in the Picture 

by Cat Cole Johnstone 

 

I am struggling with the man in the picture.
His arms outstretched; his knees bent
as if to forge ahead; his eyes cast
toward something out of my range of vision.
He is dressed in blue coveralls,
like a farmer.  He wears a hat with
a wide brim � no doubt to keep the sun
at bay.  His boots seem to sink
into the muddy road, and for a second
I think that maybe he is simply stuck.
I nudge him with my finger
but I get no reaction. 

I desperately wish to see his face,
if only he would turn my way,
but something demands his attention
and to all else, he is unaware. 

Perhaps, a horse drawn wagon
carrying bushels of corn for which he awaits.
Perhaps, there is a storm brewing along
the horizon, although the sky above him
is clear.  Yes, I see it now �
he is actually pointing!  Perhaps there is a pack
of wild coyote, or maybe the love of his life
heading toward him on a beautiful white
stallion.  Or maybe she is accompanied
by some other, and headed in the wrong direction.
I simply do not know. 

I am struggling with the man in the picture.
He is trying to show me something
I am quite sure.  His hat is the color of straw
and seems cock-eyed, as if ready to blow
away.  Yes, there appears
to be a breeze.  I can almost feel it.
If only I could see his face. 

 

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The Wind 

by Cat Cole Johnstone 

 

Across the room, there is a wooden door.
Beyond, a small brown hallway cradles a descending
staircase.  Beyond, a paneled wall.
Beyond, a wind that roars in the night
like a thousand marching bands
that have lost their footing.  They are frightful
with their colored smocks and top heavy
tubas.  They stumble toward our house
in the dark, wide eyed and terrible. 

The dogs are alive.  I know because
I watch their ears perk up as the
wind begins to shake our house.
I watch them rise, as if called by
some other master.
I watch as they stare through the wall
toward some thing I can not see. 

I think to myself that the wind
is horrific, like the ocean.
I imagine its wrath intensifying �
moving into our domain like a slow train
until the walls are pulsating, the lights
flickering, the floorboards unable to
remain stable.  I plan my escape
toward the stairs, a million miles away.
I gasp in anticipation of the walls
giving way, of the terrible calamity
 
as it hits my lungs. 

Beyond the wind, there is a silence. 

I curse the wind � and compare
it to a herd of unnatural demon-like
buffalo.  I tear open my shirt and
swear blasphemies, egging it on �
egging it on like the smallest of matadors,
I stomp my feet to bring on the bull.
I tease it with my breast and attempt
to offend with obscene gestures. 

Grabbing my dogs by their collars,
I begin to snarl and bark, bearing
my teeth and pacing the floor
on all fours.  They wait until
I am done, and return to their station.
Their obedience is not to me. 

Quietly, I begin to moan.  I lie between
the dogs and cling to the rattling floorboards.
My eyes are wide, my one leg
twitches nervously off to the side.
I imagine the house gives way.
I imagine falling.
I imagine the roar of a thousand
hydrogen bombs going off simultaneously �
sending the world in a billion different
directions.  By now, my eyes are glazed
and unable to focus.  I lie naked on the floor
and allow my mind to flood with visions of catastrophe,
tangible and finite. 

The dogs remain unmoved.
Then, as if on cue, they begin to howl;
raising their heads in unison with some force
that defies my imagination.
I cradle my knees to my chest
and rock back
and forth between them,
awaiting the winds to calm.

 

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Untitled 

By Cat Cole Johnstone

 

The book that is not written
sits on my shelf, in a room
that has no windows, or even a door,
it is hardly a room at all.
It is more like a tiny piece of sky. 

It has pages of illustrations
that have not yet been drawn.
I look toward them, attempting
to pick out the details.  A face
here, animated, as if poised to speak:
a place there, streaked with the colors
of springtime and casual motion.
Wind maybe, or the arch
of a slow moving train.
I have to smile at the variety of texture. 

It remains unnamed, this book
upon my shelf that has not yet been written.
I must think of a title, and soon.
Something about the simplicity of living
one life, perhaps, or the complexity of living,
in general.  Maybe something to do with that train.
Maybe something to do with the moon.
I really must think of something, and soon.

 

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Train Track 

by Cat Cole Johnstone 

 

Your destiny rushes toward you.
To say that it speeds forth
with the force of a runaway
train or a bullet from
some high powered killing machine,
would be clich�
of course, unless
I bothered to draw you
a diagram of the tracks,
poured soot in your eyes,
tied your wrists to the metal
ties so tight your hands
go numb and start
to turn blue,
placed the barrel of my gun
to your tender temple
and made you watch,
all the while wiping the sweat beads
from your forehead
lest they drip into
your unforgiving eyes
and impede the view.

 

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The Jesus That I Knew 

By Cat Cole Johnstone 

 

The Jesus that I knew wandered through streets,
Holding out his alms bowl like a jewel,
Stooping just outside my garden window,
Streams of light caressed him like a halo.
The Jesus that I knew spoke of better days:
Soft, healing words that trickled down my spine,
Soft, delicious kisses destined to grow,
As if the world was truly an oyster.
The Jesus that I knew walked on water,
Rising at dawn and playing the martyr;
Parting the seas, then stealing my covers,
Saving one dream but slaying the other.
The Jesus that I knew was a disaster.

 

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