Hope

“Hope”, “Burning the Bacon” and “Lost”

In Poetry by L. Austen Johnson

Hope

I got a letter in the mail,
the envelope as crisp as Mid-Winter air.
I opened it, and I swear
I could smell your t-shirt, your blue-jeans,
your sheets—pine cones and fabric softener
and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of me.

I read your messy but deliberate
scrawl, random capitalization
and periods that were more
like crooked lines:
your words, saying you’re finally,
finally, coming home.

After I put the folded sheet
back in its crisp capsule, every stroke
of the wind chime was really just you
whispering my name. The wind
makes the cheap metal vibrate
after it has gone in fading waves.
I turned the living room armchair around
to face the front walk. I could not focus
enough to sit, so my jitters drew up
alternative routes from laundry to kitchen,
pitstops and divergences
to twist the once-short course into a quest
with the front-left window as a midway point
and my destination a moving target
somewhere outside its panes.
I may die from the waiting.


Burning the Bacon

I think I’ve inadvertently written an ode to you every
day since the one we met—you, self-assured and me,
suspicious. My dedication is the first breath
when I wake and the last before I close my eyes.
That’s not to say I live for you. But in reading
the back of cereal boxes clearly designed for kids,
in running the tips of my fingers over the spine of
my favorite books (that whisper of kinetics),
in daydreaming and night jogging and burning the bacon in
that supposedly non-stick pan we bought at Costco,
of course I see at least a little bit of you.


Lost

We’re sitting at dinner;
You lean over
the already-cramped
table with your knife-
bright gleam of teeth
and shout, “You knew
this was going to happen!”
I try to make myself
smaller in my curved,
wooden chair.

“How could I
have known?”
I whisper,
hoping this
conversation
will end
soon.

You lean back,
and the sky clears,
a black hue slicing through
the one round window
we have in our kitchen.
Then, your eyes soften.
Your hand retracts
from its spot by my cheek.
Your teeth tiptoe back
into their organized places.
You become human again.

Five years from now,
we’ll be sitting at dinner,
you’ll go on about how nice
it is that we don’t have to feed
another mouth and besides,
“We’re doing fine
on our own, aren’t we, hon?”
I’ll flash my knife-
sharp teeth, put
a little something
in my drink, and guzzle
down to the last drop.

About the Author

L. Austen Johnson

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L. Austen Johnson is a university student, studying English, Archaeology, and Astronomy. She’s an avid reader, a sometimes writer, and an attempter of various art projects. When’s she’s not in class, you can find her searching for animals to pet, singing off-key in the shower, and learning the art of making tea. Find her at Instagram @lojoismyrappername or her Goodreads.