Matthew Johnson

Three Poems – Matthew Johnson

Friday Night in a College Town

As buskers and local acapella groups
Jam, blow, strum, and sob their songs outside of taverns,
A music too real to be renown,
The coeds drink and converse
Of their experiences in the bars and night cafés,
While fraternity members,
Swarming onto the avenue, like hornets out the nest,
Drift and pub crawl to another tab,
As wingmen gas up brothers in front of potential lovers


Scenic Sunday Drive Upstate

Suppose that the road upstate,
Flanked by orchards and dotted by bed-and-breakfast lodges,
Was actually endless, and did not merely feel endless
Due to the presence and frequent, speed-bump interruptions
Of colonial-size villages and hamlets requiring 30 MPH speed limits.
If there was no need to decelerate our engine,
And autumn drives on mountainous Sundays were truly without restrictions,
I would loop back again, continuously,
And repeatedly drive past the orchards and bed-and-breakfast lodges.
I would drive northward always,
At a tempo meant for the hurried world of the city, until the car became unsalvageable,
And I would be pleasantly stuck in those same villages and hamlets,
Encircled by the mountains, whose luster when the sun hits,
Is simply perfect.


On Visiting Cooperstown

Mere outfielders and relief pitchers are given rank and footing
Akin to Roman emperors, or U.S. presidents, in the great corridor,
Lined with the sculpted busts of ballplayers.
Great Sultans of Swat, with hands like hams,
Best suited for destroying ballparks, seemingly extend theirs to shake mine.

As I wander through the names and faces that have marked the time across two centuries,
The bronze of Cap Anson shoots daggers for my mere presence in this hallowed place,

But it is the busts of colored ballplayers, who I drink in like summertime lemonade,
Or captivating literature, that makes me feel welcome.

The physical anger and subliminal sadness of racism are enough for my soul to spasm,

And when I arrive at the stern visage of Rube Foster, the commissioner of black baseball,
My heart is broken for how his life and spirit fell under from such hatred.


Matthew Johnson is a three-time Best of the Net Nominee and his debut collection, Shadow Folks and Soul Songs (Kelsay Books), was released in 2019. His second collection is scheduled for a forthcoming release (New York Quarterly Press). His poetry has appeared in Maudlin House, Roanoke Review, Front Porch Review, The Maryland Literary Review, The Northern New England Review, I-70 Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and elsewhere. He is a former sports journalist and editor who wrote for the USA Today College and the Daily Star in Oneonta, NY. A northeast transport, he now lives in Greensboro, NC after earning his MA in English from UNC-Greensboro. He is the managing editor of The Portrait of New England and poetry editor of The Twin Bill.

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