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  • By Johnny Payne


The more I died, the more I came to life.

In quicklime quickened, I returned as breath

the way a cut releases from a knife.

My blood had bled; red held me like a wife

as if to drip her substance over death

and drown it into drowsing back to life.

The while I rested, my bones leeched out strife

same as a man exhausted sucks his teeth.

The headstones stuck straight up, as blades of knives.

From my self-butchered breast, I drew a sheaf.

I flung it to the stone wall of the heath

to ring as steel to shake me back to life.

I almost fainted from excess of grief

until the surfeit brought me back with stealth

and healed me as with surgeon’s sharpest knife.

I heard my new birth, keen as one once deaf

ground-rustle of a single greening leaf.

The more I died, the more I came to life

the way a cut releases from a knife.

Johnny Payne is Director MFA in Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary's University in Los Angeles. He has published two previous volumes of poetry, as well as ten novels. In addition, he writes and direct plays in Los Angeles and elsewhere. His plays have been produced professionally and on university stages.


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