It’s 1945, and I’ve been searching for you up the California coast. Alas, you’ve disappeared again, this time promoting yourself in Hollywood and New York. As you know, there have been some world developments. Fascination with Hitler led to consequences unforeseen. In the midst of global convolution, the science you so adored has produced a bomb, and that miracle of achievement has just vaporized 80,000 human beings in Nagasaki alone, incinerated the entire city, and consigned another 80,000 of its citizens to soon die of shock and radiation. All this from one bomb, a relatively low-yield device, compared to darker things to come. The combined implications of particle theory and our all-too-human capacity for evil and fear is just setting in, shoving metaphysical parlor games and playful optical tricks to the sidewalk. Clear-headed science has proved itself more devastating than imagination. I was hoping to talk to you about Uranium and Atomica Melancholica Idyll, a not-so-still life where everything is—literally—going to hell.
this world’s surreality
the real thing
Uranium and Atomica Melancholica Idyll (oil on canvas, 1945)
by Spanish Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Details: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
—This haibun, “Epistles to Dalí II,” expands upon the second paragraph within Dear Salvador: A Personal Letter to Dali, which appears in The Ekphrastic Review (20 April 2020).
grew up in the lemon groves in Southern California, raised by assorted coyotes and bobcats. A former firefighter with military experience, he served as traumatic stress therapist and crisis consultant—often in the field. A nationally certified teacher, he taught art and writing, served as a gallery director, and still serves on the board of the Sasse Museum of Art, for whom he authored the museum books Fragments: An Archeology of Memory (2017), an attempt to use art and writing to retrieve lost memories of combat, and Dear Vincent: A Psychologist Turned Artist Writes Back to Van Gogh (2020). He holds national board certification as an art teacher for adolescent to young adults.
Recently, Dr. Johnson retired from teaching and clinical work to pursue painting, photography, and writing full time. In that capacity he has written five literary books of artwork and poetry, and one in art history. His shorter work has appeared in Literary Hub, Chiron Review, Shark Reef, Cultural Weekly, and Quarks Ediciones Digitales, and was translated into Chinese by Poetry Hall: A Chinese and English Bi-Lingual Journal. His memoir collection, Chaos & Ash, was released from Pelekinesis in 2020, his Black Box Poetics from Bamboo Dart Press in 2021, The Stardust Mirage from Cholla Needles Press in 2022, and his Fireflies Against Darkness and More Fireflies series from Arroyo Seco Press in 2021 and 2022. He serves as contributing editor for the Journal of Radical Wonder.
Author’s website: www.layeredmeaning.com
⚡ Kendall Johnson’s Black Box Poetics is out today on Bamboo Dart Press, an interview by Dennis Callaci in Shrimper Records blog (10 June 2021)
⚡ Self Portraits: A Review of Kendall Johnson’s Dear Vincent, by Trevor Losh-Johnson in The Ekphrastic Review (6 March 2020)
⚡ On the Ground Fighting a New American Wildfire by Kendall Johnson at Literary Hub (12 August 2020), a selection from his book Chaos & Ash (Pelekinesis, 2020)
⚡ A review of Chaos & Ash by John Brantingham in Tears in the Fence (2 January 2021)