After the Ark

by Luke Johnson

Standing under redwoods, it’s easy for me to believe
in giants, to grieve a field of grasshoppers still alive

in wind feathering ferns, ghosts greening
the catkins’-sway.
                                Or maybe my grief changes colors

in memories and books, showing red
as green, a trick of light to cast shimmers

as false shadow.
                                Praying mantes must have ascended
Noah’s gangplanks, one male and female, she

resolute in her purpose, he in his expendability.
This precision cannot be called love.

Hoof-prints reveal the herd where dust kicked
and has resettled.
                                 We are not so fallen

we can’t recognize our shadowed edges.
Trees show their rings without protest

and the ocean sings a chorus of I do’s, taking in
late-evening quiet along with scores of sinners

still wandering, who come to the coast nights,
who would’ve drowned in what my mother showed me

of God’s love, the ever-lasting compassion
                                                                  too definite
to be human, but I will hide these small things:

inventions and embellishments on playing fields
I never took, how I lie—even here, even now—how

my mother left my father and I still don’t know
how to forgive her, if I need to—Genesis

misses these unpaid fares, and I can only listen
to black water buck while cliffs swallow wind

and spit back memory, pushing clouds to sea.
Belief easier said than done when considering scale,

this is what a cracked shell tells us about growth.
Once the sky has been covered, roots can only drink.

It’s up to us to grow gills, to learn to breathe
here where the flood has become the body.

Luke Johnson is the author of After the Ark (NYQ Books). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets, New England Review, Southwest Review, Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Seattle, Washington.