- By Johnny Payne
Water Spell & Other Poems
A crocodile waits on the far sandbank.
I wade through waves, while my beloved casts
a water spell, a verbal shield to flank
my naked form against the river’s blast
in rainy season, mud roiling the waves.
The floodwaters, like land under my feet
Let me cross toward the perilous one who saves
me from the dangers she herself creates
reminding me her love’s what makes me strong.
For all I know, it’s her, not crocodiles
waiting to eat me, after long straight strides
take me right to her bosom, to her smile.
Thanks to her incantations, I step deep,
eager, as water murmurs, half-asleep.
Ply her with beer and incense, those twin charms
fragrant at the outset, smelly after
but expeditious in twining her arms
and turning vulgar palaver toward laughter.
You’re just a bro, a brute, a knucklehead
with neither bad intentions, nor finesse.
With dull panache you stumble into beds
abetted by each woman’s fecklessness.
Later, you’re wed to one by random chance
when easily you could have wed another.
You’re deep in the post-ceremony dance
holding her mom, while she clings to your father.
Your kids will look like them and her and you
fated to wed and breed without a clue.
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.