German Interludes
customs in Berlin
a venomous attitude
is he rude at home?
does he have a family?
has he ever smiled before?

city walking tour
with guide Silke Schlittermann
history unfolds
Topographie des Terrors
timeline of atrocities

don’t get run over
stay aware of where you are
Berlin has bike lanes

car and subway train traffic
street trams and buses fly by

plexiglass in ground
empty bookshelves underneath
remember the fire
“If they’ll burn books, they’ll burn souls”
that’s exactly what they did

quinoa salad
Auf die Hand Feinstes fast food
beet root and edamame
spring mix and small green apple
water to drink with this lunch

black licorice sticks
postcards for all four grandkids
blue Berlin neck scarves
gummy bears and schokolades
Kinder egg with a surprise

swindlers swaggering
Pickpockets people-picking
graffitied buildings
maryjane-berlin dot com
colorful hair and tattoos

white asparagus
in season six weeks in spring
buttery in soup
never seen the light of day
green above ground, white below

Weidendammer Bridge
lovers’ names engraved on locks
fastened to the rails
authorities cut the locks
the love they symbolize lives
-Kim Johnson
“Please, Don’t Squeeze…”
I’d had a crush on you
since high school
my parents tried
to nip it in the bud
but it couldn’t be squelched
I hugged my pillow
to sleep
pretending it was you
when you squeezed my hand
on our first date
I knew you were
the one for me
when you fixed my hamburger
gently squeezing
the mustard and ketchup
onto my buns
I had to fan
the flames of desire
you had a good grip on life
sold your ball python
to buy me a ring
we got hitched
managed to squeak by
even in our poorest days
before long
little Whipples came along
You cheered me on-
I showed you how
to swaddle babies
you were
a wonderful dad
molding Play-Doh
squeezing fresh OJ
showing proper toothpaste dispensing
winning the
Whipple Reunion award
for best hugs 
I noticed something 
you had a particular skill for the job that made you famous
the rest is history
I, Charmin Whipple
will always
be your main squeeze
I’ve got your back
The end
-Kim Johnson
Black Shawl
Black shawl
Crocheted, finely fringed
Like a lampshade
Wayward, lucid bristles
Poncho-patterned wrap
Thrift store treasure
Matching velvet bowler hat
Edge-flocked faux fur
Accessory pair to turn heads
Found in your closet
After the funeral
I gave them new life 
Every Christmas, I wear them
With your favorite color – red
And every Christmas, Dad gets a sparkle
In his one good eye
“Nice shawl. Where’d you get that?”
“It was hers,” I always say.
Then both his eyes glisten,
Like a melting snowman,
That fateful Christmas Eve
When you spoke your last words. 
-Kim Johnson

Picture Perfect?
Snapshot Berlin: 
Brandenburg Gate
I walked through
All alone, without you
Snapshot: London
Westminster Abbey
Crowns and scepters tell who’s who
Doesn’t matter – they’re not you
Snapshot: Paris
Strong Espresso
Non-Americano brew
Tasteless beverage without you
Snapshot: Florence
San Miniato al Monte
Overlooking scenic view
No as gorgeous without you
Snapshot: Rome
Last adieu
Not a victor without you
Smiling proudly, checking in
Friends all liking where I’ve been
In my heart, not even Rome
Compares to what I have at home

I remember our first dates
               eating barbecue in Papa Willie’s as lunch turned to   
               riding your motorcycle to see the countryside, secretly
                    scared to death
               the orange Gatorade staining your mouth as we sat on
                    the concrete picnic table
I remember not wanting a third date
               “No,” I answered
               I was too ambivalent, too unready to date again
               I cut you off and left for the beach
I remember driving home
               getting the call that you and your parents were in a
                    freak accident
               a car crashed through a restaurant window, hitting you
                    all as you ate dinner
               you were staying at their house as you all recovered
I remember the church bringing food as you all healed
               I signed up for pineapple and raisin glazed ham
               delivered it and saw you sitting in a chair,
                    deliberately not looking up at me
               and that was when I realized I’d made a mistake
I remember thinking what a bitch I’d been
               feeling the urge to apologize and find out what you’d
                    been through
               texting you, “Do you want to talk?”
               my heart skipping a beat with your reply: “Well, YEAH!”
I remember the phone ringing
               you didn’t waste a second
               we talked for hours about the accident, about my trip,
                    about us
               you asked me out again, and I accepted
I remember our next dates
               walks in the Griffin city park,
               sitting on a swing,
               talking hours on end, conducting “traffic counts”
I remember our first kiss
               you opened the car door for me, took my seatbelt and
                    fastened it
               your lips accidentally brushed mine as you backed out of
                    the car
               “There you go,” I smiled, and kissed you back, and then
                     kissed you again.
I remember the Valentine’s date to see Gordon Lightfoot in concert
               finding a smashed trinket ring in the parking lot
               probably a Cracker Jack surprise, tucking it in my pocket
               humming “Rainy Day People” all the way home
I remember our memorable walks in the Griffin city park,
               but none more so than the day you left the swing
               and got down on one knee, and reached in your pocket
               and proposed with the Cracker Jack ring that you’d   
                    resurrected with pliers
I remember your royal blue shirt and your jeans and the love in
                     your eyes
               and the matching royal blue car speeding by
               a teenage boy fist-pumping cheers out the window as he
                    watched you propose
               and answering “Yes,” even before you said, “I want us to
                    choose a better ring together.”
I remember our tenth anniversary
               lying in bed, late at night, when you rolled over and said,
                      “Oh no!”
               alarmed, I sat up.  “What?!”
               “I forgot what today was, and I just remembered,” you
                   sorrowfully confessed
I remember that I, too, did not realize it was our tenth anniversary
               until you reminded me
               there are 365 days in a year, and an anniversary should
                   be celebrated
               especially a tenth anniversary
    but when two people love the way we do every day, it’s
                   so easy to forget…
  -Kim Johnson


My Daughter

baby girl, 7 pounds, 14 ounces
beautiful, smart, third year art student
the devil took you to the hell of
heroin, meth, and homelessness
tinted your windows with glassy eyes
tilted your world with blurred perception
traded your baby for needles and pills

through it all, your mother prayed daily
          and every time the phone rang:  please not the morgue, please bring her back
but a call came

an arrest – hope!
an empty shell huddled in a cell, finally broken enough, willing to try living again
a reformative 9-month womb:  the Bethany House
God performed another Technicolor miracle
righted your ship, focused your lens, restored your soul
I praise Him for re-gifting you, even better than before
         and pray especially for the many still lurking in the shadows

–    Kim Johnson


Blessed Oblivion

travel journal
back to Covent Garden
street performer strums and sings
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”
nine-year-old boy ten feet away
chubby Down Syndrome dancer
dances like no one’s watching
gray t-shirt, denim shorts, red Velcro sneakers, horn-rimmed glasses, blonde hair
jumps, spins, and sways,
immersed in the music
stealing the show
arms raised, face skewed skyward
oblivious to all else
with the moment
loving life as so few do

– Kim Johnson