Wednesday, July 29, 2020

An Evening with Michael Lee Johnson

Tonight I'm posting a few more poems that Michael Lee Johnson sent me.  These poems are a little more melancholy, a suitable mood for the end of summer--although, as one of my teachers has reminded me, this is summer.  Let's make the most of it with some more poetry!

Photograph by Bernard Spragg

Dance of Tears, Chief Nobody

By Michael Lee Johnson


I'm old Indian chief story

plastered on white scattered sheets,

Caucasian paper blowing in yesterday’s winds.


I feel white man’s presence

in my blindness

cross over my ego my borders

urinates over my pride, my boundaries

I cooperated with him until

death, my blindness.


I’m Blackfoot proud, mountain Chief.


I roam southern Alberta,

toenails stretch to Montana,

born on Old Man River−

prairie horse’s leftover

buffalo meat in my dreams.

Eighty-seven I lived in a cardboard shack.

My native dress lost, autistic babbling.

I pile up worthless treaties, paper burn white man.


Now 94, I prepare myself an ancient pilgrimage,

back to papoose, landscapes turned over.


I walk through this death baby steps,

no rush, no fire, nor wind, hair tangled−

earth possessions strapped to my back rawhide−

sun going down, moon going up,

witch hour moonlight.


I’m old man slow dying, Chief nobody.


An empty bottle of fire-water whiskey

lies on homespun rug,

cut excess from life,

partially smoked homemade cigar

barely burning,

that dance of tears.


*Music Video Credit:  Native American Indian Music - Sunset Ceremony- Earth Drums 02

To hear Michael read this poem, please follow this link:

Missing Feeding the Birds

By Michael Lee Johnson


Keeping my daily journal diary short

these sweet bird sounds lost-

reviews January through March.

Joy a dig deep snow on top of my sorrows.

Skinny naked bones sparrows these doves

beneath my balcony window,

lie lifeless without tweet

no melody lost their sounds.


These few survivors huddle in scruffy bushes.

Gone that plastic outdoor kitchen bowl that held the seeds.


I drink dated milk, distraught rehearse nightmares of childhood.

Sip Mogen David Concord Wine with diet 7Up.

Down sweet molasses and pancake butter.

I miss the feeding  the birds, these condominiums regulations,

callous neighbors below me, Polish complaints.

Their parties, foul language, Polish songs late at night,

these Vodka mornings-no one likes my feeding of birds.


I feel weak and Jesus poor, starving, I can’t feed the birds.

I dry thoughts merge day with night, ZzzQuil, seldom sleep.


Guilt I cover my thoughts of empty shell spotted snow

these fragments, bone parts and my prayers-

Jesus dwelling in my brain cells, dead birds outside.

I miss feeding  the birds.

A recording of Michael reading this poem is available on You Tube.

Open Eyes Laid Back

By Michael Lee Johnson


Open eyes, black-eyed peas,

laid back busy lives,

consuming our hours,

handheld devices

grocery store

“which can Jolly Green Giant peas,


darling, to bring home tonight-

these aisles of decisions.”

Mind gap:

“Before long apps

will be wiping our butts

and we, others, our children

will not notice.”

No worries, outer space,

an app for horoscope, astrology

a co-pilot to keep our cold feet

tucked in.

To listen to Michael recite this poem, please go to this link:


By Michael Lee Johnson


Single life is Tequila with a slice of lime,

Shots offered by traveling strangers.

Play them all deal them jacks, some diamonds

then spades, hold back aces play hardball,

mock the jokers.

Paraplegic aging tumblers toss rocks,

Their dice go for the one-night stand.

Poltergeist fluid define another frame.

Female dancers in the corner

Crooked smiles in shadows.

Single ladies don’t eat that tequila worm

dangle down the real story beneath their belts.

Men bashful, yet loud on sounds, but right times soft spoken.

Ladies men lack caring verbs, traitors to your skin.

Ladies if you really want the worm, Mescal,

don’t be confused after midnight.

Here is a recording of Michael reading "Tequila":

Michael Lee Johnson lived 10 years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, DuPage County, Illinois. Mr. Johnson published in more than 1072 new publications, his poems have appeared in 38 countries, he edits, publishes 10 poetry sites. Michael Lee Johnson, has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/2 Best of the Net 2017, 2 Best of the Net 2018. 204 poetry videos are now on YouTube at POETRYMANUSA; Editor-in-chief poetry anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze; editor-in-chief poetry anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses; Editor-in-chief Warriors with Wings: the Best in Contemporary Poetry

Technically, it is tomorrow, so let's add a little music.  

I'm posting Woody Shaw's "Rosewood":

The other song is his "Theme for Maxine":

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Welcome to Michael Amitin from Paris!

Photograph by  Christophe Alary

Tonight we fly from Montreal to Paris with Michael Amitin's poems!

Marooned Bells

Marooned on a couch brown raft -rocking lle-de-France
Sullen blackboard jazz blowin from across the navy N’Awleans seas

Slo-mo angels doing somersaults on my torn red curtain reverie
in these broken Halloween bones and mask
I rummage through the ashes that crashed me into
this pink, new golden face dawn..

floating past jagged-edged icicles into the night melting
chocolate Clark Terry’s “They Didn’t Believe Me.”

Love lost is something we can never afford
head stuck on a starboard mast
crashing through storm waves painted in dead dreams

And feeling that familiar frost-bitten regret again- that we never consummated the close quarters of then,,,what are regrets other than dead sea gulls floating in a ghost soup sea

Dylan has Blue Eyes

Dylan has Blue Eyes
blue as acid rain above the iron mines
he stole away in the steel toe, snowy night
tangled up in a winter howl New York
blue parade - watchman cries like a wayward stork
collapsing in post-war wharfs of solitude
its all over now
JFK bullets signed, sealed delivered
Dylan’d just arrived in town

Escorting Jane thru after hour dark sour alley ways
creak-eyed ragtime forgotten stairs,,
making love till daybreak in lonely whistlestop shadows  
below the seedy swept windowpanes-
Cinderella sweeps up night's sad confetti
Jane deep blue morning
he's hopped a passing train
to the next crumbling town
hurling knaves to the boiler pot
on the tombstone heels of Jack K
he carved his plot

Dylan has blue eyes
seen Hurricane Carter do blasphemous time,,
Emmett Till dug up from southern soup brines
Hattie Carroll, the deluge feral- bombers flying grease oil nights,
innocence chained in a Texas two-step charade
angels crying star spangled tears

She hears the tracks rumble
left behind on anxious street,
she awakens, lifts her finger to the wind
knows what direction he’s in, far from that
bluelight dream hotel

Danse of the Exotic Bolivian Food Massacre

And in that dream
A Spaniard playing charango- leans over, turns on
a tape
‘spill your life’s purpose’
a half-pint remains
my lies shake the roof
Caroline sashays
high on hoisting red flag-draped trays
exotic bolivian food shades
streamers bouncing off her marble-fine high- octane silken New York culture thighs
In a dark alley panic- thinking I’d left behind my Mandolin
Her matchstick lit me back into flame
when I grew tired of counting ashes
beige corduroy pantlegs crossed in the woody smell
of the dank gallery Monmartre nights

Photograph by Elvert Barnes


What’s goin’ on?
Manrique asks
he slides into the ripped red passenger seat
my beaten up, burgundy wine-stained Nissan
Fresh from a 7/11 twinkie run
he looks at me- pale behind the wheel
drivers blaring
for us to hightail our asses out of the
thin slice strip mall parking space
Marvin, man..
Marvin..just heard it on the radio,
Marvin? Marvin Gaye?

Filicide, man- his pentacostal cross-dressing papa preacher
sprayed a bullet right through Marvin’s gold record
broken chequered cocaine-stained heart
golden voice over, here in ’84
so young, tragic in the magic, why?
so great
mercy, mercy me

Poet, storyteller and musician, Michael D. Amitin spent most of his life traveling the roads of the American West from California- east through the smoky burgs and train depot diners of Western Colorado, where he lived before moving to Paris.

   Inspired by Yeats, Corso and Ginsberg, Amitin has recently been named International Beat Poet Laureate 2020-2021. His poems have been published in California Quarterly, AbstractMagazineTV, Black Magnolias, Poetry Pacific, and others.

    A current collaboration with Parisian photographer Julie Peiffer has given rise to the "Riverlights" project, and a chapbook entitled ‘Riverlights.’

Let's finish up with some music, starting with the Clark Terry piece that Michael mentioned in his first poem..."They Didn't Believe Me":

I couldn't find a video for the Benoist Raffin Trio, so here is the Clover Trio with "Prayer to the Unfamiliar."  Raffin is the drummer.

Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau play Dylan's "Scarlet Town" here:

Here Marvin Gaye sings "What's Going On" at the 1980 Montreux Jazz Festival:

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Michael Lee Johnson Returns!

photograph by  Ricardo Liberato

Tonight I'd like to post some poems and an interview that Michael Lee Johnson sent me a while back.  Thank you for your patience, Michael.  These are timeless poems.

Cracker Jack Box Poem

By Michael Lee Johnson

I don’t wear my pocket watch anymore

it reminds me of my age, 73, soon more,

outdated gadget, time hanging where

moving parts below don’t belong nor work anymore.

I don’t like to think about endings.

Age is a Cracker Jack box with no face, modern speed dial,

no toy inside, when it stops, no salute, just pops.

Lesson:  "What young men want to do all night takes older men all night to do."

Michael's recitation of the above poem is below:

South Chicago Night 

 By Michael Lee Johnson

Night is drifters,

sugar rats, street walkers, pickpockets, pimps,

insects, Lake Michigan perch,

neon signs blinking half the bulbs

burned out.

Michael recites his poem here:

Young Couple-

@ Heart Attack Greasy Grill

I was a little boy,

tad hillbilly son,

patterned then in

present tense,

hardly old enough

tall enough to work

nor notice if I had pubic hair-

large or small endowment

growing up self-conscious

about short comings

narrow chest.

Just a teen aged nighttime boy

looking 4 a part-time hook up-

little girl play, with a five-card stud.

Preacher daddy raised me,

back-seat Christian boy

low on faith high on doobie

rolled cigarettes.

I took my 1st job, pancake flipper

@ Heart Attack–Greasy Grill, 24-7

pocket coins 4 tips, a few greasy dollars,

pancake short stack, secret menu was that

boss’s daughter, blood on hands,

my bun busted now stale, stained, & baked.

Eliminate lines unessential:

waitress injected me some spice

old time recipe.

Listen to Michael recite his poem here:

Unknown Poet from Rue Montpelier

By Michael Lee Johnson

I warned you darts with advice

strong words tripping over emotions

like an imbecile-

so you think you’re Leonard Cohen

loving some naked Nancy in a cluttered

matchbox apartment overlooking

European culture simulated,

above some obscure narrow

Montreal street?

For your information,

straight poetics from insanities Almanac,

Leonard Cohen died years ago

in a twisted pickle poem he

entitled “Narcissism.”

Do you and your welfare lover

desire to be the 2nd generation,

deceased, unnoticed, unheard of,

unwarranted for failure artists

inside this thin, onion-skinned wall

dingy with your dreams?

I warned you darts with advice,

tapering off with your impotence.

Michael recites the above poem here:

Available Unpublished, Interview About Michael Lee Johnson,

Editor, Publisher, Award Nominated Poet.  Interviewee Bio at Bottom

How young were you when you first realized you could be a poet?

I started to write at 1967, 52 years ago I’m now 72.5 years old. I went into exile due to the Vietnam War era; then, typewriters, no internet, type poems one by one (no photo copies), international coupons, snail mail only, stamps, 6 month wait and 95 out of 100 never responded, much less made a comment about your poems-just a photocopied rejection letter. So for many years I continued to write but didn’t send the poems out. In 2007 with the advent of the internet I revised old poems and created new poems and have now been published in 38 different countries.

Why should anyone read your poetry over the next ten poets?

I don’t worry about other poets or competition.  I’m too old to give a damn @ 71.5 yrs.  I proclaim believing in me.  I don’t worry if there are too many groceries stores or drug stores on the same corner, bring it on and come visit my small shop I will stamp on you.

Is Dr. Seuss a legitimate poet?

Dr. What? Dr. Who?  He is not even in my memory bank. Legacy is not necessarily determined by how many housewives buy Dr. Seuss children’s book.  Anapestic tetrameter consists of four rhythmic units called anapests, each composed of two weak syllables followed by one strong syllable (the beat); often, the first weak syllable is omitted, or an additional weak syllable is added at the end.  Deception, do children give a damn?  I’m more impressed with children without thought who write the loveliest poems naturally with images from their heart as children tend to do.

Is poetry better than it was 25 years ago? Explain!

Who really cares, time is justice to itself not us.  What is what was then evaluated is in present a waste of poetic time.  Oh yes, review and love but never get stuck there less you lived there in time.

What is your single weakness as a writer?

As a child 8-9 yrs. old I had a rare cancer disease bone cancer in my legs.  I was carried around on my mother and father backs in pain, I rolled on the floor both legs in casts.  I missed most of grades 1-3.  So I missed grammar, syntax, and pronunciation.  To this day

I listen to enunciation of words, look for new words that are primarily action verbs, see how words are put together, pulled apart by syllables to hear how they sound and why I’m mispronouncing them. 

If you could write a poem to your President, would he like it?

At my age, 71 plus, I don’t much care about what the President thinks much less write a poem to him.  Yes policies do affect my living patterns, my financial security to a degree, and I certainly still have strong opinions about public and international affairs, however, as long as he doesn’t step on my toes personally, kick me out of the country, or screw too much with my mutual funds who cares?  I fought one war with resistance, and acted upon it, one stance leaving this country against an unjust war, Vietnam, is more social action in one act then most people will perform in a lifetime.  Now days I’m more concerned about quiet, few phone called, allowing me time to work on my words.

Does poetry really change thought or is that just hype?

This is the best question to pounder of all the other questions above.  I guess it depends on your personal definition of purpose on this limited time on earth.  We all carry a personal torch that burns, when, how, motive you act upon it is the motivation rightly or wrongly.  My cause and disgust ultimately was Vietnam and exile, it took 10 years in exile to resolve the fundamental issue revolving into a lifetime of left over feelings, rejection and acceptance for those actions.  Change is in your mind, compulsion of desire for change are the actions and beliefs of others that have influence on your patterns your dreams.  Does poetry really change thought or is it your actions resulting in the power of those words that change thought and alter history, legacy?

How long does it take you to write a poem?

How long does it take you to live your life or just one day of it or even one hour?  I have some poems on first write that have stood the test of time, I have other poems with editorial suggestions and my changes that have lead up to eight revision on one poem that comes to mind.  A poem can be stagnant or ever evolving.  I have a few box full of old partial poems always there open for review or die on old yellow paper or napkins from 10-35 years ago.  Where do I place time on these things?  Life chances, events unfold, social structure evolves so should poems but some things remain where they were born to stay there with a smile of justice done indeed.  I have computer files and old boxes full of what I call “starter poems.”

Do you have a single favorite poem written by yourself?

Now this is a bit of a smart-ass question.  I have around 500 completed poems, and hundreds of starter poems…and you want me to pick one favorite poem out of all of life and its passages?  If I was forced into a corner with my nose in that corner, or someone squeezing my testicles sharp in pain I would have to say a poem back in exile days may be my favorite.  “If I Were Young Again” is a symbolic poem and real experience of Michael Lee Johnson while self-exiled in Alberta, Canada for 10 years resulting from the Vietnam War.  It can be found on YouTube here:

If I Were Young Again (V3)

    Piecemeal summer dies:

    long winter spreads its blanket again.


    For ten years I have lived in exile,

    locked in this rickety cabin, shoulders 

    jostled up against open Alberta sky.

If I were young again, I’d sing of coolness of high

mountain snow flowers, sprinkle of night glow-blue meadows;

I would dream and stretch slim fingers into distant nowhere,

yawn slowly over endless prairie miles.

The grassland is where in summer silence grows;

in evening eagles spread their wings

dripping feathers like warm honey.

If I were young again, I’d eat pine cones, food of birds,

share meals with wild wolves;

I’d have as much dessert as I wanted,

reach out into blue sky, lick the clouds off my fingertips.

But I’m not young anymore and my thoughts tormented

are raw, overworked, sharpened with misery

from torture of war and childhood.

For ten years now I've lived locked in this unstable cabin,

    inside rush of summer winds,  

    outside air beaten dim with snow.



(R 11-12)

In 50 words or less how do you give birth to a poem?  How is it conceived and delivered?

A poem is a spirit that comes out of frustration or naturally if drunk or looking at a loved willow tree in the summer wind thunder and rain.  How do you deliver a baby poem in clinical conditions like this without the nurses thinking you insane?

Would you work hard if you were published? What motivates you?

I am published internationally in 38 countries and I do work hard at it, so we have covered that part this question.  I’m motivated my closings:  social injustices gone wrong in turmoil, marriages soured, dreams gone bad, flowers, birds eating seed, praying for what I don’t know, having a belief that I will never understand it all or why I’m her or you, when I can’t make sense of death of those younger than me or anyone at all.  Oh, motivation is when an editor says I need your interview in 48 hours or less.

Would you write a more profound poem on the beach or in the desert and why?

I have written poems about both beaches and desert territory.  I seldom have lived near either for any length of time being a Midwest person most of my life.  A profound poem is more about who/or what it’s about then where accept for the imagery so powerful behind the words.

In your poetry career have you ever written a verse for your mother? Give a line and explain.

I had a father of his generation, welder, boxer, coon fox hunter and it was seldom good.  He taught me to love nature though he often killed it, a true oxymoron.  My mother was not perfect but she loved life and was a totally giving human being.  Often in exile she bailed me out of financially, spoke about Jesus as my Father.  My father died at 69, my mother lived in Christ until 98.5 years.  She had macular degeneration for 8-10 years before she passed.  She rode a stationary bike blind for 45 minutes each day and wondered why?  My response was “mom, if not riding that bike you may have been gone years ago.”  She also walked blinded 16 times each day from one end of the hallway in her condo to the other and back again, just feeling the walls on each side as she moved down that path. Yes, I wrote on poem about my mother Edith and it’s full of grammatical (dangling particles-whatever that is).  Thankfully, poetry allows “screw ups” in purpose of meaning.  My mother’s favorite song was ‘I Come To The Garden Alone’…

Mother, Edith, at 98 (V4)

By Michael Lee Johnson

Edith, in this nursing home you're

blind with macular degeneration─

I come to you with your blurry

eyes, crystal sharp mind,

your countenance of grace─

as yesterday's winds,

I have chosen to consume you

and take you away.

"Oh, Jesus, where did

you disappear to,"

she murmured over and over again

in a low voice

dripping words

like a leaking faucet:

"Oh, there He is, my                     

Angel of the coming."


If you has $200,000 to put in the writing community, where would the first thousand dollars go?

This is the most difficult question of all the above since who or whom I love are not organized-and likely I would be dead unable to research unless Jesus has a computer in heaven or hell where ever I end.  But in poetry style it would go to my members of my Facebook poetry groups selecting each member privately, to the sites loving lonely pets at nearby shelters (cats and dogs), and to Carol Marcus and my daughter Dawn to keep my legacy alive after I pass.


Michael Lee Johnson lived 10 years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.  Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  Mr. Johnson published in more than 1092 new publications, his poems have appeared in 38 countries, he edits, publishes 10 poetry sites.  Michael Lee Johnson, has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/2 Best of the Net 2017, 2 Best of the Net 2018.  194 poetry videos are now on YouTube poetry anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze; editor-in-chief poetry anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses available here  Editor-in-chief Warriors with Wings:  the Best in Contemporary Poetry,

Let's finish with a little music.

Father John Misty covers Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire": 

He also sings Cohen's "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong": 

Cohen's son Adam and Lana Del Ray cover "Chelsea Hotel #2" here:

I'll finish with Johnny Cash's version of "Bird on a Wire":