Green Hills Literary Lantern





The aging man doesn’t pull the string;

lit, his room and its window stay blue

until dawn. As he works by himself, from


midnight on, everything is a challenge.

His pool of light leans quietly against

the dark around it, the books edging slowly


their remembered way off the shelves. Poets

in books bark orders at words, this hour.

They hit at their ankles where young animals


only want to play. Blue curtains survive

at the window, barely; if he pulled the lamp’s

string, they would be black and shapeless.


Blue would move outdoors, into the street,

to rest with snow, reflecting quietly the glow

of women and men, the city’s random windows


lit in a waiting gesture. They are alone or

are asking questions of their lovers, or

praying that frail relatives will survive


or else will die tonight. To pray at all

is what he prays for; to cover the window

or turn out the light, forget the line on


which color moves. Blue cannot be the gist

of his heart alone. An absolute number stalls

in the empty air that moves in the empty halls.


Sean Johnston is a Canadian writer working toward his doctorate at the University of South Dakota. His fiction and poetry have been published in various journals throughout North America, including Descant, The Fiddlehead, and Malahat Review. His collection A Day Does Not Go By (Nightwood 2002) won Canada’s ReLit Award for Short Fiction, and his latest book is the novel All This Town Remembers (Gaspereau Press, 2006).