Archive for denis johnson


Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2008 by Ryan Sanford Smith

Dundun (an excerpt from the short story from the collection Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson)

Dundun tortured Jack Hotel at the lake outside of Denver. He did this to get information about a stolen item, a stereo belonging to Dundun’s girlfriend, or perhaps to his sister. Later, Dundun beat a man almost to death with a tire iron right on the street in Austin, Texas, for which he’ll also someday have to answer, but now he is, I think, in the state prison in Colorado.

Will you believe me when I tell you there was kindness in his heart? His left hand didn’t know what his right hand was doing. It was only that certain important connections had been burned through. If I opened up your head and ran a hot soldering iron around in your brain, I might turn you into someone like that.


Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , on April 1, 2008 by Ryan Sanford Smith

Vespers (a poem by Denis Johnson)

The towels rot and disgust me on this damp
peninsula where they invented mist
and drug abuse and taught the light to fade,
where my top-quality and rock-bottom heart
cries because I’l never get to kiss
your famous knees again in a room made
vague by throwing a scarf over a lamp.
Things get pretty radical in the dark:
the sailboats in the inlet sail away;
the provinces of actuality
crawl on the sea; the dusk now tenderly
minsters to the fallen parking lots–
the sunset instantaneous on the fenders,
memory and peace . . . the grip of chaos . . .


Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , on March 5, 2008 by Ryan Sanford Smith

In Praise of Distances (a poem by Denis Johnson, from his book The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millenium General Assembly)

as the winter slips up under
the palms of my hands, it is getting
harder to be a poet: i am woe
itself. my car fades

without pain from the parking lot. it
crumples to one knee, like
an elephant, startled
into lifelessness by the hungry bullets of winter.
the graveyard wavers
distantly. the car will no longer stand

between me and the debts nuzzling
at my door. i will no longer go rattling
among the miles as if

distance were a safe thing, as if i slammed
the ancient car door
in the face of all the noises.
my wife tells me, why don’t you get
a job? but once i had a dog,

whose vital organs became
confused beneath his skin, until he died;
i will not leave this animal kingdom

until he comes back from the trees.
i will keep my nostrils
opened for the lonely jangle of his collar landing over the buildings

or for some sign that he will be returning.
my hands will not
be filled with advertisements; so

they will be filled with the difficulty
that is winter. if he is lost,
farmers hoping for spring will discover
his voice among the corn stalks,

seeking a safe place to lie
quietly down. as i wait for him
by the window,
i have the suspicion that the meaning of things
will never be sorted out.