Contents

Author’s Statement

Shape-shifter

Gryphon

Werewolf

Cyclops

Golem

Ghost

Zombie

Siren

Nymph

Dragon

Johnathan Harper

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s Statement

 

These prose poems really want you to not do the monster mash with your friends. Poetry will only take you as far as sex with your friends can. Even if, when you see them from the corner of your eye, your friends become monstrous. Even when, from the corner of your eye, you see in the mirror that the monster is actually you.

 

 

 

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

 
 
Shape-shifter

What warped beneath a mountain, beneath bedrock, in the tiny men pushing their carts inside, in the tiny veins of silver pouring through their blood, in a line of ink that ran off the desk onto the floor? She told me where the line ended and mapped it for me. She mapped a mountain and said, “This was the blueprint.” Then she circled the sky.

 

 

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

 
Gryphon

Flecks of blood in the curve of his beak but a smile that disarmed me anyways. Cold dirt punched up the sharp air from my lungs when he threw me to the ground. Only the oil derricks saw. When he pinned me down I wanted something even the sun facing stones couldn’t provide. He was blond mane, preened feathers and coiled muscle. We grew together in this caged city. Something closer than friends. When I left I made sure the curve in the earth was so great that even when flying he’d never see me again.

 

 

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

 
Werewolf

What I knew by day slipped away at dusk. Polar sunshine and smiles for the shoppers and his army of teenage workers in red and khaki. His voice tipped in ice until it sizzled in starlight. Then another animal shined in shot glasses. All the men he made open their moonflowers. Monthly flights to Chicago’s leather bars made it impossible to tell how many boys he bit. Because he was my boss, when I sucked him off he wrote in my performance review, “Shows inexperience, but a good team player.”

 

 

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

 
Cyclops

What are tongues or eyes or friends for if not to pen and eat like sheep? My flock got smaller every year. So did his. We aged like arrows downward facing. I played his gay wingman at the strip-club. Once while up on shrooms another guy brought him down by throwing a stripper to the ground. He pulled the guy’s teeth out with his knuckles. He kept my secrets and a cocaine pouch between his belt. I didn’t want Odysseus’s fired stave, just the raven’s reach, a beak breaking water. All the roots ripped at once so I could leave.

 

 

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

 
Golem

We talked about his life in Buffalo, how he was the unbreakable stone for his cracked friends. A shirtless husband he searched street to iced street for one winter after the man walked out on his wife and kids. He carried a grown man out of the snow. The punches he took made him laugh, even when blood ran from his eye. I could sense the roots digging through him. Knew that feeling of friends who now see you as a statue as they hurtle into ash. We’ve both learned to move while no one is looking.

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

 

She hid in a journal boxed in the closet, her page marked. Her mechanical pencil strokes a voice that whispered then rattled. Her many invisible hands closed at once. Waves of cold memory that dropped the air pressure and made my wrist ache. She took stock of my living. Saw my unwellness and smiled. Some premonition of seeing both ways where past and future are horizons circling on her teeth. The picture of her on my wall began to move, like a star gliding after I’ve stared too long at a single point of sky.

Ghost

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

 

I asked him to nibble on my ear and now I can’t get him out of my head. At the drag show he took a beer and I took a bracelet and we made ourselves the smallest, grey scraps of flesh in the room. Bright scraps danced right up to us. We shambled some place for 2am coffee by shattered light. We shambled to the ocean so something would move us. He lay face-down in the water. He tried to be a raft. I hopped on—we both sank. We both rolled up on the beach coughing salt water from our worthless lungs.

Zombie

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

 

I made out with his cigarette. He didn’t sing, just spoke, voice a pearl with a ring of mildew—green spots in his eyes. I asked him to punch a hole in my lip with his teeth. He whispered a lyric, played my strings. The ocean provided a chorus. The ocean provided a view to watch everything get swallowed beneath him. The ocean provided wave after wave clapping rock loud enough that no one heard me sing his name.

Siren

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

 
Nymph

We took the first lines of books and arranged them in wreaths. She read one. Cardinals burst from the gaps between your backbones. She told me about her father. His weekend charity, the many gifts sent to his grandkid in Germany, the swastikas mapping his skin and slurs lining his teeth. She retreats from his gaze, the hyacinths that fall from her hands remind me of the myths I’ve cracked my skull for. I keep some fingers closed from promises. I tell her I’ll be here, but only until I find another place to dust my feet with dirt.

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

 
Dragon

Fire the other animal. My body unfolded with his like facing question marks. The heat in his breast, the scaly fingers rough and cloying. He went from beastly stranger to surprise to the many ways a sky becomes more than a sheet of paper and paint swatches. A line of ink became more than stitching that binds a page. His lair too small to stay. We said we’ll see each other again. Every time I’m the passing comet. I tell him to make a wish.

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

 

Johnathan Harper  Myths

white knuckle chapbooks

Someone in Michigan made the mistake of letting Johnathan Harper teach writing courses to college freshmen. Find him in class or the Hobby Lobby, depicted in the picture to the left, if you're looking for someone to fight. For anyone interested in more writing published under this pseudonym or interested in collaborating on some other writing related project, see his tumblr at harping-jay.tumblr.com

prose poetry for the people