Johann Sarna

After Mae La


Our coming our going will be eventually
only one kind of fuel for night. That I’ve gone, that I’m here
in this room without breeze, back from the towns
where darkness hoods the blunt machete
where light, ruby skim, is slicked away
then returned as fires on a far bank glittering
like fish in the palms of children who can’t
name what they hold but sense a gasping and flinch,
crush, doesn’t shift what the river runs over,
the stones which remain unbaffled by their weathering 

and blind. Night—even if it sows in me small suns
of belief—holds its many landmines.
Still, here, like a gag somehow
sweet these minutes keep us
held in silence, or if not silence
the sounds of the hammers and saws
changed by where they end in these rooms
to something softer, water lapping at a longboat’s low
hull heavy with weapons, medicine, or maybe
—once muffled by winter—the hacking

outside a cold house. Though even then
there was the problem (the axe working toward a
solution with its whetted edge, split wood piled
up in your father’s shed, love): how,
to live against simply air? It was aster wilting
we murmured over hours ago—no city gawping under artillery
no buildings scarred by scarlet streaks.
It is our bodies, for now, that solve their own way
through sweat; in last slim light the same
stuff that gleamed on the workers’ necks.


Johann Sarna grew up in Toronto, Canada. He is a recent graduate of the MFA program at the University of Texas. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Narrative Magazine and Kodon.