Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Frank Johnson





Sometimes I Wonder if God Really Fuck with Me like That

& i mean if she don’t who could really blame her my prayers
are hardly coherent hardly consistent too many drunk texts
too many requests for someone who don’t call too much
i run out of words for God & i can’t speak to my demons but
i hear them my language is never as big as my sins my grace
my demands which have taken to lingering in the back of my throat

& who can say whether God has favorites remembers only some
of our birthdays maybe she’s exhausted maybe she’s a simulation
i never know what’s real i never know what to believe i used to
believe all i could have was the winter streets i kept returning to
fades funerals & the familiar cold of County & now i’ve made a home
in uncertainty the rooms are open light slides through the space
the air murks up the mirrors i am mostly alone & mostly unafraid like
a hummingbird at dawn September flowers are pinking in my yard

& on my father’s gravestone i sense a revolution & many dead
before spring ready to welcome their kin back to them the sky
was once my lover all day we laid with each other tried to figure out how
we could survive solo just the two of us & i don’t know about you but
i can’t say what any of this shit means i know how to make a poem
make a thing pretty & so must God but i’ve been so ugly & so has She

& i swore when i wrote this poem it would be all yellow & saffron
thought it would smell like some cinnamon sugar epiphany at least
some cocoa butter at least an explanation but these are just words
& I’m not sayin i don’t believe in God i’m just sayin She ain’t easy
to read She don’t respond She don’t keep her read receipts on
& my cousin still can’t come home & my homie still can’t come out
& yesterday i ate lamb & licked the blood from the plate & laughed
for an hour & everything was perfect & it feels like a trick


Streets Is Watchin

streets still watchin still lookin out still checkin for you still stoopin
right there & nobody knows how nobody whispers to their hands
at night anymore shit it’s just the times just not the time streets prolly
tired prolly been swellin up at the corners with ghosts & reasons to
keep hustlin streets prolly hungry shit everybody hungry these days
even the landlord even the tamales lady even the city every stranger
wants me to sing to them tell them they special & they just like me
just hungry like me & my dogs & yeah i feed my dogs but they
ribs just like mine spent they whole life biting & wishing they were
teeth bending themselves to the heart caving toward what keeps them
bleeding how you ain’t know the streets is just like poetry just like
history always in the shadows at sunset streets be lurking in summer
trees streets be full of opal & ochre spirits prayin you make it home
full streets really just want you to dance a step let them lead you
for a turn lift you in a moment busy with magic like you streets
know you passin by seen you comin for a season streets love you
anyway like anything that has thoughtlessly kissed your palms &
your shoes & never claimed you just watched for your return


Photograph of Frank Johnson by Julian Daniels.

Frank Johnson is a Black poet, essayist, and visual artist born and raised in East Las Vegas. He received his MFA in 2019 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is the inaugural recipient of the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute’s Donald Barlow Fellowship. Frank’s poems, essays, and reviews have been featured in a number of publications including The Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Shallow Ends, The Rumpus, and Desert Companion. More from this author →