Brandon D. Johnson

Two Poems

Sivad (Right to the Funky Part)

(for the Electric Miles)

Miles moves you down the street as
earbuds trumpet the head electric
It takes a certain cool to stay in step
With you today

His Majesty Electric got you stutter-stepping,
you stride to a stumble, a step to a fumble, lifting
your feet above the cracks in the pavement
Find the air/not the concrete/to get your off-kilter on.

Imagine a marching band’s horns, woodwinds and drums,
making the slowest strides / the fastest cadence
One row stomping asphalt on the eighths
The next, a sixteenth shimmy
The thirty-seconds, a thrum on the edges, and
quarrelsome quarter notes bringing up the rear

Parade-goers on both sides sway
like tall grass under a sapphire sun,
their eyelids half-closed, their chins skyward
Klarwein’s Watusi’s humming, jumping,
Hang-timing on

A red street with black people
and you’re the Major in front,
Painted white on your right side
Blue on your left.  Well…
Kind of blue

You’ve got it now.  The air is yours
Rhythm isn’t rhythm, without rhythm
You see yourself slow-bopping with only
The coolest partner, only the craziest

Trickster on the horn works for you
Helps you ignore what isn’t there
until you need to get it back
If only you could jack a boombox into your brain
They’d all bop to the same beat
As you

Historic plaque in front of the Sterling A. Brown house. Photo by Margaret Corum.

How You Get Cut

Drop a Card
Drop the deck
Drop bad jokes

Shuffle badly
Shuffle funny
Fumble while shuffling

Look in someone’s / hand
Be suspected of / the same

Bet badly
Bluff poorly
Bluff / the wrong dude

Talk too much
Ask questions / any question
Get loud / on somebody

Look / at a player’s woman
Talk / to a player’s woman
Talk / to a player’s woman / about the player

Shake / the table
Knock over / the table
Get crumbs on / the table

Win a lot / too soon
Win way / too often
Win / and get up / before

Others try / winning back / their money
‘Cause now you think / you a badass
Put the whole pot / in your pocket

Pimp out the door / grinning
Like you The Man / when you know
When you started / you didn’t have
A pot / to pee in


Brandon D. Johnson is the author of Love's Skin (The Word Works, 2006), The Strangers Between (Tell Me Somethin Books, 1999), and co-author of The Black Rooster Social Inn: This is the Place (Spike and Pepper Books, 1997). He is included in the anthologies Gathering Ground, The Listening Ear, Cabin Fever, Drumvoices 2000, Winners: A Retrospective of the Washington Prize, and Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC. Born in Gary, Indiana, he received his B.A from Wabash College and his J.D from Antioch School of Law. He lives in Washington, DC. To read more by this author: Two Poems, It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue, Vol. 10:2, Spring 2019; Six Poems, Vol. 3:2, Spring 2002.