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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 15: Sept. 2022
Cheribun: 149 words
+ Visual Art: Painting
By Kendall Johnson

Out of the Desert


Zirconia dioxide. Climbing the miles-long incline on I-15 south out of Las Vegas, I was thinking of zirconium. If Las Vegas could be considered a gemstone, it would have to be a piece of cubic zirconium—shiny, oversized, with more than a hint of tawdry. It had been a long night, broken in the early morning by a call from my friend Victoria. Former medevac flight nurse, Victoria had prowled the villages near Chu Lai, seeking her lost husband whose plane went down years earlier. It wasn’t until 9/11, almost forty years later, that Victoria had found her direction—driving past roadblocks into the wreckage of the Pentagon, to help set up a triage in shade under a nearby overpass.

origins of strength

magma extrudes to lava
erosion layers into sandstone
detritus turns metamorphic

rising above subduction
true diamonds form under pressure


[Image M26] Untitled abstract painting by Kendall Johnson
Image M26 (painting)

Copyrighted © by Kendall Johnson. All rights reserved.


—From Kendall Johnson’s book-in-progress, Melting Into Air: Desert Journey Haibun and Cheribun (with abstract paintings by the author)

Kendall Johnson
Issue 15, September 2022

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

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Featured Book: Dear Vincent, selections from Dr. Johnson’s collection of epistolaries and visual art (published in 2020 by Sasse Museum of Art), reprinted in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 14, August 2022)

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)

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