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Syndic Literary Journal

“1 & 2” ∼ Page 4 ∼ by J.H. Johns & Paul Churchill Mann

Photo by Dariusz Pacak

J. H. Johns
(Copyright © J. H. Johns 2017)

It was decided;
I would take the train in
and then take the train out-
all I had to do was get
from here to there;
here being the dining room,
and there being just north
of the George Washington Bridge;
from the moment
that I stepped out the door,
to the moment
we cleared the bridge-
life was snarling precariously;
forget about
those old posters advising us
to live a long life
by staying away from
the edge of the platform!
Live a long life,
stay away from people-
which we all did;
but not without
eyeing each other,
looking to see
what we were
and what we were carrying;
but we had room,
far more than we
had on the train;
far closer together, now;
sizing each other up,
looking at hands;
what they were doing
and where they were going;
knowing we had a tunnel
to go through-
under water-
with lights flickering,
we held our breaths,
expecting the blast
that never came;
we exited into the station;
police, military,
people with bags;
harmless looking,
suspicious looking-
“strangers using foreign tongues;”
an hour before the next train;
looking for ways out
if worse came to worse;
the lights would go out-
more people with bags;
expecting shouts and screams,
incomprehensively to the point;
no security,
no bag check,
(Bombs and All!)”
Not good;

no one checking,
another tunnel-
and a big bridge
looming straight ahead;
expecting to see
it blow;
parts and cars
and people
flying and
into the water below;
onto the tracks,
collapsing on the train;
closer, closer,
under the bridge,
clearing the bridge,
car by car,
until we are free…


J. H. Johns
(Copyright © J. H. Johns 2017)

Sunday morning,
early morning sunshine;
the air is cool
but still;
kids are still sleeping,
dogs have been fed
and resting-
nothing happening;
the radio has religion
and it’s too early for sports-
nothing happening;
so we sit and sip,
talk and watch
the squirrels in the tree;
one siren, two sirens-
then three-
maybe we should turn on the television
to see if anything’s happening.

J. H. Johns
(Copyright © J. H. Johns 2017)

Times used to be
that you had to
worry about getting killed
by the locals;
they had their ways;
knifings in the streets,
robberies gone bad,
guns on the railroads,
road rage,
pushed onto the subway tracks-
random acts of violence.
Now it’s all changed;
death walks more quietly now;
so, we talk about leaving,
getting out as soon as we can,
but we wonder
if “soon” might end up being
too late;
it seems to be closing in;
fire from the sky,
repossessions in the mail,
and an host of special guests
just waiting- dying- to come;
and visit,
to be among us;
there are so many,
and they seem so powerful that
you can’t help but say
about the decision we made that
it’ll probably kill us.

“35th AND 202nd”
J. H. Johns
(Copyright © J. H. Johns 2017)

There are times,
deep in the night,
when it wakes me up;
I’ll lay there and listen
to the night;
the avenue has been empty;
no tires screeching,
no Newsday truck rumbling,
no music blaring-
in a sea of people,
the dark is quiet and still;
not silent,
but quiet;
because there,
deep in the right hand corner,
it creeps-
the sequencing of the light;
a pattern of click and hues;
I sit up and look out
to see life
as the corner has come to know it;
hands and people,
people and hands,
sometimes all orange,
others all white-
usually a mix of the two;
talking to us
and living life;
quietly, motionlessly, inanimately;
they tell us to stop
while they themselves go,
back and forth,
over and over,
at the corner
of 35th and 202nd.


Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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