Cool Phoenix by Keith Johnson

(cover photo by Richard Denner)





It is the time of the vultures,

this early winter Miami.


they soar

above the immigration building

and the causeway


The wind does not choose

them to move

around the sky

any more than my car

chooses to run out of gas.

Neither does the child

choose to live so aware,

nor the grizzled mad-dog

choose to bark and leap

against the chain-link

fence of his captivity.

The great equalness rests

on all things,

and we

pass through this way.






My new shoes hurt in the heels and toe.

The old mocs have had it,

but I am slow to give them up.

The stitching is undone,

but they are so familiar to my feet.

I put my feet into the new ones

and walk on the heels.

This is shoe dharma

where both the shoe and the foot are trained.

Pliant with practice,

the shoe takes shape, slowly.

The skin toughens to adapt,

and soon I may be able to discard

my old familiar mocs, where

my toe lifts and spreads the seam.

The tread is slick, and I skate over the grasses.

Lacking traction my toes awake,

cup to catch each step,

and/but the new ones hurt.

Between old and new lies discomfort and promise.

I sit and watch this space with compassion.