Brad Johnson - "Interloper," "Next Door," and "It Always Rains on Christmas."



We live on a lake in a planned community.

Every third house is the same. Any changes

of paint color must be approved by The Board.

The rules were set before we moved in.


We have gators in the lake. They sun

on the shoal by the sidewalk where morning runners

trampoline across the street after noticing

the gator is a gator not an exploded tire.


When the city canals flood in summer,

gators slip over and enter suburbia.

They have kids. Just like the rest of us.

Then The State comes out and reels them in

with a fishing rod and a hook.


There’s a novelty in having a gator

in your backyard, in having a dinosaur

trolling your lake. Our families, when they come

down from Connecticut and Michigan,

always ask about the gators and look

for them out the back window as though

they were neighbors that walked their dogs naked.


So I call The State when I see a four-footer

tucked in the grass thirty feet from our back door,

ten feet from where ibis nibble in the lawn. 

I ask how big the gators should be

before I call and request removal.

I’m told it depends on my comfort level.


I’m comfortable with them in my backyard.

I’m just not comfortable being in theirs.





Next Door

                             listen:there’s a hell

of a good universe next door;let’s go

--e. e. cummings


Music moves in the morning wind.

A melody from an open window.


A gray sky covers Coral Gables.

The clouds empty, slick streets, streak stucco sides


of buildings. It’s not nine a.m. and it’s

eighty-eight degrees. The grocery trucks blow


through the 4-way stop. No cops this early.

The law sleeps in too. The bridge is raised.


Fishing boats return. A deflating balloon

tied to a mailbox sinks on its string


as a woman opens the front door

of the complex across the street. She steps


onto the stoop,  dragging her black Dachshund

on a long leather leash. She pulls the dog


to the sidewalk. Last night’s turquoise, wrinkled

dress is unzipped down her back. Lips swollen


and smeared. Her eyes deepened with mascara.

Glitter reflecting on her chest. Her bare


feet slap on the driveway. Loose bricks chirp

as she goes. Her dog sniffs the wet crabgrass,


the yellow hydrant. Her highlighted hair

is flattened, raised on one side, sprayed then slept


on, now stuck in exclamation. Three Porches

are parked in a line along the street, squatting


like frogs, ready to leap 120

miles in six point two seconds. The dog leads


her up the paved sidewalk and smells the white

metal fence surrounding a parking lot.


While the woman scratches her messed head of hair—

trying  to recall something?— the dog lifts


its leg and looks up, searching the street.

Music moves in the morning wind.


A melody from an open window.




It Always Rains on Christmas


The rain should be snow

but the rain is never snow this time of year.

Car hoods shine in the Christmas parking lots

like the cheeks of children whose parents zigzagged

cross town, cross counties, cross state lines

for the Tickle Me Elmo, for the Xbox

for this year’s Holy Grail only to find

the shelves dug out like cakes – the popular toys

the frosted center, last year’s toys the hardened crust.

Other parents float in the aisles,

lost in a desert of dissatisfaction.


There are no answers. No solutions.

No more strip malls, department stores.

No time for searching eBay.

There’s no such thing as a Holy Grail.

I know this. But how should I convince a child?


It’s raining on Christmas again

and I just want to be home where I’ll only

be wet with disappointment.

This disappointment is all I can share:

my Gift of the Magi.


But I can’t get home. I can’t get dry.

There, framed in the melting window,

my keys drip in the ignition.

The door lock tucked down. Hidden

like a child, ashamed.




Brad Johnson is an associate professor at Palm Beach Community College, FL, and has two chapbooks, Void Where Prohibited and The Happiness Theory, available at


Posted on December 7, 2013 .