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Encounter (after Milosz)
Kent Johnson

Fleeting Presence now reading, pray imagine us there where you presently are…
                                                                                                   [Tablet fragment, Sumer]

We rode forever through great traffic in a sedan toward evening.
Blackhawks rose, blackly, against the sepia hue.

And promptly, the boy walked in all of his life across the street, holding
against his chest a book purple or blue.
We looked at him holding the book with all of our sight.

This was thousands of years back. Thousands of years are nothing to the dead.
Not to the eveninged boy, nor to the ones, perfumed, who looked, longingly,
upon the world in its fleeting light…

O God who gave us strength, where are they, if ever they truly were, toward what,
truly, do they unfold or ignite:
The movements of the boy darkly crossing, the call to praise You rising, the righteous
verses ardently burning?

I ask You, yes, inside faith and sorrow, but more—my hand moving forever down,
dopamined, to the detonator’s head—
I mean I ask You, my Muslim, my Jewish, my Christian God, I ask
in fear and infinite astonishment.

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