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  • By Johnny Payne

Water Spell & Other Poems

Water Spell

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.

Nuptial Dance

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.

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