Sample poems by Jerry Johnson

Nature’s Beatitudes


Blessed is the barn swallow flying above,
blessed is the cooing of the mourning dove.

Blessed is the doe with her spotted fawn,
blessed are the sunset and the first light of dawn.

Blessed are the fishes and humpbacks of the sea,
blessed are the salmon and the native brookie.

Blessed are the hawk and the soaring eagle,
blessed are the kestrel and the cardinal so regal.

Blessed are the Mustang, the Morgan, the Paint,
and Francis of Assisi—all creatures' patron saint.

Blessed are Monarchs adrift in the sky
and Tiger Swallowtails so easy on the eye.

Blessed is the lion, blessed is the lamb,
blessed are the moose and the mountain ram.

Blessed are those who comprehend
all creatures are their brethren.
Blessed are the meek and merciful
for they shall find their heaven.

Break Clear Away

“Keep close to Nature's heart … and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”  — John Muir

Let's break clear away together
just you and me
We'll find a secret hiding place
'neath a big old tree

Let's venture down a woodland path
blaze a brand new trail
and find the place where coyotes sing
as do the hawk and quail

Let's go where others dare not pass
We'll climb a hill and yell
Let our echoes resonate
through mountaintop and dell

Find a pond and jump right in
purify body and soul
With no one there to watch us
who cares if we lose control

Let's breathe afresh the mountain air
cool through every pore
dance along with Pan and Faun
upon a pine needled floor

And discover what we're seeking
it's right there 'round those bends
We'll uncover the answer on our quest
and find we are best friends.

Whenever I see a turtle

for Mary Oliver


Whenever I see a turtle
I’m reminded to slow down.
What’s the rush? True friends will wait,
will understand, will help.
Miss. Harris, my junior high math teacher,
frequently said to the class (or was it just to me?):
Patience is a virtue.
It’s funny how you remember things like that,
several decades later.
Turtles are assuredly patient. They like
sitting on a rock as they soak in the noonday sun.
You never see them sprinting across a street.
Perhaps they are hopeful that a good Samaritan
will give them a helping hand
and bring them to safety.
I say, Forget the eye of the tiger. We should pay
closer attention to the eye of the turtle.

On the Passing of My Beloved Barn Cat


Because I will outlive you
should I tell you to love me less
so my grief at your departing lessens …

The lessons of life are simple
We live a life and die
We leave our mark on hearts that beat
on minds that lean on stuff stiffer
than flesh with fur or skin
or eyes that shine in the dark
Don't despair
Life is fair
We are all under the same aegis

Pinkie … I have outlived you …
you should have died hereafter …
perhaps there would have been a time for such a word

But your brief time here was such a grand one …
I cherished every day
which began with your greeting me at the door
as I headed out to the barn
a huge container of cat food in hand
to feed you and your brother and sister
all three hairy bundles of energy
leading the way
tails raised straight up like periscopes
each of you taking turns
rolling in the grass

As I proceeded to unlock the barn door
Pinkie … Blackie … then Lady Gray
would zigzag around the cuffs
of my coveralls and purr their blessed purr
It was their daily morning ritual
and I was a willing and happy participant

Each of you celebrated other rites throughout the day …
hanging out with the horses in the barn
weaving your ways from one stall to another
catnapping high up on the bales of hay in the loft
catching mice (are there any left?)
sneaking up on birds (hope you didn’t catch any)
drinking from the horses’ tall water trough (quite the balancing act)

But my favorite tradition
came in the early evening during twilight time …
I would sit on the stoop of the back porch
and call your names

Each of you would push against the loose weathered board
on the barn door
and squeeze your way out …
You came sauntering up to me
and each of you would say
Pick me up … make my motor hum

And yes Pinkie
your motor did hum.

Listen to Jerry read A Walk on a Country Road

I will take a walk today down an old country road
My pace will be slow as I want to take in each blossom
on a gnarly apple tree next to the stonewall
which meanders along the road

I will sit at times on the wall
and smell the newly mown hay
I will watch bluebirds and swallows
drifting on warm currents of air

I will gaze at a soaring hawk
as he with binocular eyes
takes in everything he pinpoints below
What a sight that will be!

I will listen for sounds of natural things
water cascading down a mountain stream

the thunderous tail whack of a dam builder
dissonant reverberations of spring peepers
shrill cries of a killdeer protecting her young

ratta-tat-tats of a pileated pirate jackhammering a dead elm
and the soothing chicka-dee-dee-dee of a black-capped songster

I will walk at a slow pace     listen to thoughts coming in
later put them into words of the places I have been
I will recall the crooning of birds     aroma of hay in the field
Contented my soul will be     having observed nature’s yield.

Listen to Jerry read A Bed of Clover

Beneath a bed of clover
     below the melting snow,
     the thundering hoof beats
     of wild horses resound,
          liberated from encumbrances,
          unbound from harness and halter,
          free from fenced-in pasture.
     An ethereal presence is felt,
     roaming and galloping
     through meadow and wood
beneath a bed of clover.

Beneath a bed of leaves
     decaying layer on layer,
     lie remnants of the past—
          a maze of earthen smells forgotten,
          horses with whom
                our bonds have diverged,
          trails we took and didn’t take—
     all decaying layer on layer
beneath a bed of leaves.

Beneath a bed of hay
     memories slip away to dust
          of horsemen who came and went,
          of creatures of the wild,
          of sights and sounds
          of whinnying friends—
     all sought to offer balance,
     they now lie fast asleep
beneath a bed of hay.

Beneath a bed of grass
     each blade gives up its life,
             yet gives life.
                   Tiny oaks begin their push
                   to reach morning light,
                   crickets chirp,
                   lilies free their bonds,
                   mares give birth to foals.
             The compost of our past transgressions
             forms fodder for new life.
     Our roots spread deeper as we draw
     rekindled strength
beneath a bed of grass.

Upon a bed of clover
     all things old are born anew,
          as fillies and colts, without a blemish,
          ascend to the sun
          to start once more with shackles gone,
          to stretch and touch their dreams.
     A new beginning comes,
     with forgiveness and rebirth,
     rooted deep and pressing out
upon a bed of clover.

Beneath a bed of clover,
     beneath a bed of leaves,
          beneath a bed of hay,
     beneath a bed of grass,
upon a bed of clover.