Michael Lee Johnson

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.  Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, DuPage County, Illinois. Mr. Johnson published in more than 2,013 new publications, and his poems have appeared in 40 countries; he edits, publishes ten poetry sites. Michael Lee Johnson has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/2 Best of the Net 2017, 2 Best of the Net 2018.  Two hundred twenty-four poetry videos are now on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos. Editor-in-chief poetry anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530456762; editor-in-chief poetry anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses available here https://www.amazon.com/dp/1545352089.

Native I Am, Cocopa (V3)

Now once-great events fading

into seamless history,

I am a mother, proud.

My native numbers are few.

In my heart digs many memories

forty-one relatives left in 1937.

Decay is all left of their bones, memories.

I pinch my dark skin.

I dig earthworms

farm dirt from my fingertips

grab native

Baja and Southwestern California,

its soil and sand wedged between my spaced teeth.

I see the dancing prayers of many gods.

I am Cocopa, a remnant of the Yuman family.

I extend my mouth into forest fires

Colorado rivers, trout-filled mountain streams.

I survive on corn, melons, and

pumpkins, mesquite beans.

I still dance in grass skirts

drink a hint of red Sonora wine.


I am a mother, proud.

I am parchment from animal earth.


Note:  This is the story poem of the Cocopah Indian tribe and their journey over the years. “The River People descended from the greater Yuman-speaking area, which occupied lands along the Colorado River, and the Cocopah Indian tribe had no written language. However, historical records have been passed on orally and by outside visitors.” Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada, Vietnam era.

Sweet Nectar (V2)

Daddy wants to see a hummingbird.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

devil in feathers,

Illinois baby come to me,

challenge my feeder

sip up, drain nectar,

no straw needed.

You are a master of your craft.

My thumb your measurements

your brain 1-grain size

white rice the same as mine.

Your vision impeccable 

clean your glasses thick and sticky,

murky migration into your

miracle little boy

prove 2 me you

are the real Wild Bill Hickok

dancing with your Calamity Jane

tick tock, a year there, year back,

3,000 miles across the saltwater

the route to Mexico, traveler

landing South America,

shake the dice toss them

you bandit.

Will you return hummingbird

daddy is on the blender,

mixing new formulas

bright new color nectar.

Rochdale College

Freedom School, I Exiled in Time

Toronto, Canada (1972)


Chased by this wild, I was a black wolf of time

freedom extinguished me-

I died on borrowed time,

I died on hashish,

I died on snorting cocaine,

I died on the “H” man, heroin,

LSD, acid passed around hallucinated me

into Disneyland without my house slippers.

I nearly jumped 18 floors without hemp,

straight down breaking through plate glass,

Jesus invisible was my invincible Superman.

I nearly died listening to 

American Woman, Guess Who,

they feed me downers for my overdose.

I nearly died in a small room

balling an unknown little bitch from Montreal.

All those little pills in dresser drawers, yellow, pink, and red.

I nearly died, Yonge Street, with hippy beads,

leather purse, belt, fake gold chain, and small pocket change.

I went the way I didn’t know where to go,

searching for heaven ending at entrance

hells gate, Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Let me fluoresce, splatter red on the asphalt

of my exiled heart.

Let me follow the freedom school, 

Summerhill, England, free love.


(Note: Rochdale College was patterned after Summerhill School- Democratic “freedom school” in England founded in 1921 by Alexander Sutherland Neill with the belief that the school should be made to fit the child, rather than the other way around.)

Showers & Rain

I’d like to see you in showers,

shadows, memories, final hours

that end this rain.

Daisies reveal your simple secrets,

yellow perverted pleasures, complicated,

often unseen mysteries like

COVID-19 virus.

Forget your sins & dance with me.

All petals at some point fall

in season come to despair

same as a desperate ending.

I focus on memories now

represent all short stories shared,

a poem or two no one will remember,

a Hemingway legacy funeral,

one family member,

one suicide at a time. 

Kansas, Old Abandoned House (V4)

House, weathered, bashed in grays, spiders,

homespun surrounding yellows and pinks

on a Kansas, prairie appears lonely tonight.

The human theater lives once lived here

inside are gone now,

buried in the back, dark trail

behind that old outhouse.

Old wood chipper in the shed, rustic, worn, no gas, no thunder, no sound.

Remember the old coal bin, now open to the wind, 

but no one left to shovel the coal.

Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hayrides all gone.

Deserted ghostly children still swing abandoned in the prairie wind.

All unheated rooms no longer have children

to fret about, cheerleaders have long gone,

the banal house chills once again, it is winter,

three lone skinny crows perched out of sight

on barren branched trees silhouetted in early morning

hints of pink, those blues, wait with hunger strikes as winter

that snow starts to settle in against moonlight skies.

Kansas becomes a quiet place when those first snowfalls.

There is the dancing of the crows−

that lonely wind, that creaking of the doors, no oil in the joints.

Jasper (V4)

Old Irving Park,

Chicago neighborhood

Jasper lives in a garret

no bigger than a single bed.

Jasper, 69, clouds of smoke

Lucky Strike unfiltered cigarettes.

He dips Oreo cookies in skim milk.

Six months ago 

the state revoked

his driver’s license-

between the onset 

of macular degeneration,

gas at $4.65 a gallon,

and late-stage emphysema,

life for Jasper has stalled out

in the middle lane

like his middle month

social security check, it is gone.

There is nothing academic about Jasper’s life.

Today the mailbox journey is down

the spiraling stairwell; midway,

he leans against the wall.

Deep breathes from his oxygen tank.

Life is annoying with plastic tubes up his nose.

Relief, back in the attic, with just his oxygen tank,

his Chicago Cubs, losers, are playing

on his radio, WGN, 720 AM.

Equipment, enjoyment at last,

Jasper leans back in his La-Z-Boy recliner.

He reaches for a new pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Jasper grabs a lukewarm Budweiser beer from his mini-fridge.

Deep breathes, a match lite, near his oxygen tank.

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