Two poems by Alx Johns

Shapes and Spaces

I had to put together a damn puzzle
of the United States,
one state at a time.

Good thing I've traveled a bit,
read some books,
seen a map or two.

I knew Delaware was tiny and topward
Texas was the big, dumb-shaped one at the bottom
California on the left.

Rectangles in the middle,
squiggly states on the east.

See, it was one of those wooden
puzzles, the pieces of which
might stick in or to your foot
if left on the floor
which they were,
which is why I was stuck in this sudden
geography test,

the sort of which my college students can't pass.

I stalled on Mississippi, relative to Arkansas,
far away, actually from Georgia,
even more from northeast Georgia,
a smaller town, a smaller neighborhood,
a smaller house, a smaller room,
some terribly small pieces.

The more you look at, the sharper the lines.

Leaving a Town

Orioles lift from the wire
dive into dogfight swerves

as the train clacks through
the backs of heads headed somewhere
along the path to the airport.

Before you leave a town for good,
run hard through your neighborhood

waving your hands and
screaming apologies
and gratitudes

Run 'til you sweat.
Show them you knew they existed.
Show them everyone matters.

You'll return some day to your city
no longer yours:

the embryos of buildings,
skeletons of buildings,
the ghosts of buildings,

places, shapes, spaces
redefined, new lines and angles,
new streets not like
the one with the bungalow
where the woman wailed
and stamped her feet when her son
died in a stupid way
not the one with the record store and the restaurant
whose owner owned a wolf,
not like the glass highrises reflecting

the setting sun just the right hues
to make you smile and wonder.

There's no place like home.

There's no such thing as home.

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