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Luke Johnson

The Swell, I Did Not Know

When I hit the hog
it ran a mile

through the thicket
and fell

in a foot of water
—drowned.

You hit it in the head
my daddy said,

the zombie effect. 
How the body

moves in death
                       a dance

and after
the dance

a knife
that grooves

                                    the bloated gut,
                                                                    gropes

like filthy men.
Believe me,

he continues:
even the innocent

eat, son,
throw themselves

                                          in acts
                                          of rage

and reach
for what the world

will offer them.
Later,

                                  the fire
                                  leaps

like magic
from his

fingers and a full
bottle

                              passed
                              like prayer.

I pretend to sip.
Spit to ward

the spirit, divination.
A warmth

the body
turns

                              to torment,
                              visions. My

daddy in the dark
wood

     asking where his
brother is

and why the lake
won’t cough him

                                back.
                                   The babies?

He cut
them clean.

Luke Johnson’s poems can be found at Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Narrative Magazine, Florida Review, Poetry Northwest, Frontier, Cortland Review and elsewhere. His manuscript in progress was recently named a finalist for the Jake Adam York Prize, The Levis through Four Way Press, The Vassar Miller Award and is forthcoming fall 2023 from Texas Review Press. You can connect on Twitter at @Lukesrant.  

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