Allan Johnston


                        for Kevin Clark


Here from the top it all made sense:

how the white Spanish walls between

the houses met, the geometry

of neighborhoods squared out into lines.

I'd sit in the tree for hours

looking through leaves and coffee-stain berries

down the block and toward the cliff

that dropped to the ocean, clouds, and sky,

and sense the peace of it all,

the parceling out of the land,

the way each life could spend

its brief, green section of grass;

Old Man Wilson with his mulch-pile,

the Winslows further, the house always closed

to the yard, and the Granitellis

next door, with a green lattice flower house

they never used, a part of the property

now the province of German Shepherds

that would take a hand off of you

before you could retrieve a ball. 

It wasn't walnuts, there were no walnut trees

as there are here, it was just a tree,

and they were the neighbors, and it all seems

as vast and old, so far and dying.


            [Previously published in Dickinson Review]


Allan Johnston has published in over 60 journals, including Rhino, Poetry, Poetry East, and elsewhere.  His book Tasks of Survival (Mellen Poetry Press) appeared in 1996.  He received a fellowship in poetry from the Illinois Arts Council.  Originally from California, he now lives near Chicago, and teaches writing and literature at Columbia College and DePaul University.