Luke Johnson


An axe is a dream for idle boys.
Summer nights much easier

for these six or seven, alternating
unpracticed arcs, each heaving his

young weight and inexplicable blade
awkward into the honeylocust

planted between apartment stoops
and subway stops. A bike bolted

to the trunk: the only calculable target
for this aggression or revolution or willful

purposelessness. They want to chop
it down. They want to swing and swing

and swing, watch green underbark
give way to heartwood.

Bodies sweating under streetlamps.
When the tree falls, it’s anti-climax,

slumping to the sidewalk like a man
who’s had too much to drink, or

who’s just tired of the same buildings
on the same walk in the same city.

Luke Johnson

is the author of the poetry collection After the Ark (New York Quarterly Books, 2011). His poems have appeared in New England Review, Poetry Northwest, The Southern Review, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. He is Director of the Tinker Mountain Writers' Workshop Online, an Associate Poetry Editor at storySouth, and an adjunct instructor at the University of Mary Washington. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.