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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 1: January 2020
Prose Poem: 212 words [R]
By Peter Johnson



I admire the brute dampness of snails. I ate them once in a little restaurant outside Toronto. A medium-sized war was going on, and I was dating a girl I skipped school for. We’d go to the zoo and watch the orangutans regurgitate. We’d toss peanuts to the elephants, or wave to giraffes, hoping for their approval. Sometimes we’d end up in Canada, cubes of hash hidden in the studs of our jeans as my ’59 Rambler American lurched across the border. Unlike most stories, this one’s true, full of youth and trouble, but mostly confusion, especially about God, whom I began calling “God the Forgetful,” saddened that one baby could be born armless, another with two heads. It had become hard to like God, or depend on Him for the simplest chores. Even now wars rage on, babies still exploding from wombs minus arms and legs. You can’t even turn on the TV without hearing someone’s daughter explain to a wide-eyed audience how she had sex with nine guys and one woman to earn money for a home entertainment center. Makes me want to revert to Plan B. Makes me wonder why I’m back in Toronto, outside a jazz club, eating snails, watching an unmarked aircraft descend upon the city.

—From the author’s collection of prose poems Eduardo & “I” (White Pine Press, 2006); appears here with permissions from the author and the publisher.

Peter Johson
Issue 1, January 2020

is professor emeritus of creative writing and children’s literature at Providence College, as well as a poet, novelist, and editor, most recently of The Definitive Anthology of Prose Poetry: A Cast-Iron Aeroplane That Can Actually Fly (MadHat Press, 2019). He also founded and curated The Prose Poem: An International Journal from 1992 through 2000, edited The Best of The Prose Poem: An International Journal (White Pine Press, 2000), and served as a contributing editor for American Poetry Review, Web del Sol, and Slope.

His second collection of prose poems, Miracles & Mortifications (2001) won the 2001 James Laughlin Award from The Academy of American Poets. His other books include Old Man Howling at the Moon (prose poems; MadHat Press, 2018), What Happened (novel; Front Street Books, 2007), Eduardo & “I” (prose poems; White Pine Press, 2006), I’m a Man (short stories; 2003), Pretty Happy! (prose poems; 1997), and Love Poems for the Millennium (chapbook; 1998).

Johnson’s poems and stories have appeared in Beloit Fiction Journal, Denver Quarterly, Field, Indiana Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Quarterly West, The Iowa Review, and The Party Train: A Collection of North American Prose Poetry. In addition to the 2001 James Laughlin Award mentioned above, he has received Creative Writing Fellowships from Rhode Island Council on the Arts (2010 and 2002), The Paterson Prize for What Happened (2008), and a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1999).

Author’s website: http://www.peterjohnsonauthor.com

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