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Johnny Thonn  (email)


About the Poet:

Johnny originally comes from Cambodia, having escaped during the Khmer Rouge uprising, and currently resides in South Carolina.  His short stories have appeared in First Cut Newsletter and his poetry has appeared in Reflections, and he is currently working on his second novel. 


Into The Sun

And my thoughts disappear into the sun,

        hot in its rays, beautiful with its light,

        and where ever it begins; it has no end.


Riding on the clouds to try to catch the moon

        in the early day, jumping from one to another

        like ponds and puddles left after the rain.


It has escape my mind of words to say

        in the evening moon, in the early day

        which makes it destructive; makes it white.


And there it goes floating by in bits and pieces,

        that in the rushing of my day, it could not stay;

        not even for a moment for me to write it down.


I am young still in my mind; yet, old in my thoughts;

        with the sun that shows the beautiful day,

        with the earth slowly, slowly wasting away.


I can not catch the moon. I could not look at

        the sun. I could not stand still as the earth

        moves the opposite way in its rotation.


My thoughts are running away, disappearing

        quickly as the twenty-four hours turn. I am here

        still trying to catch the moon. The moon.



Lucid Space

“We few…we happy few.”

                        Henry V

                        William Shakespeare


Compound with no sorriness of languishment in any matter,

with the idleness of time composing its melodies to

the solemnity of poesy as the moments of thoughtless dreams

move from one place to another; what image is

the lucid space in the derangement of obscurity?


And so it is to collapse into a deep trance ascending skyward

from the conquered in the refuge of harmony, we

happy few claim the divinity of joy in the state of being

more than the mortal state of mind. What state

in the matter may each ascend with time?


The earth, the wind, the sky and the heavens syncopating

languages in sounds and notes in random order;

the night, the cold, the darkness, and the moon that plays

the midnight chords in the shadows of light for

noble ears and benign character to consume.


And steal it yet the beauty of forms molding in the instance

of time; that thoughtless dreams has become again

images of eternal utopia. We few, trapped in the eloquence

of sublime joy, hide in the distance of consciousness

where the earth lives in simple diversity of mirth.



Along the Coast

Where I have written on the road in my head,

Down to the Coast where beauty

Of the ocean is still untainted and bred.

Hoping to view in thoughts of majesty

With the enchantment of a novel read.


I am not walking in Thoreau’s path;

Nor Faulkner’s, even Whitman’s in the same breath.

Where the coast of Neruda’s waves splashes

In beauty in the Romantic’s nostalgia – death!

Long where I do not know how to do the math;


The arithmetic, that beauty lies in reason

Of thoughts, memories for the eyes to see   

And the heart to feel. Down the Coast in a season

With the heaven blue in its tranquility.

I consume at the sight with its permission.


The day is almost gone; the night

Waiting for lovers to take, muggers prey;

To savor the first time with it at sight;

Like a flower that brings beauty today,

In the summer heat it will die tonight.



The Barren Loss

The barren land without the cascading beauty of visions

is bare and naked as slumber devours my eyes in dreams.

Trees without leaves, flowers wither in the cold winter

I pass by to view the brown dirt, the misty

air, the overcast clouds, a lifeless existence.


There we sit in the train going to somewhere in our destinations,

somewhere in a path unknown to each the consequences of

loss, the consequences of its truth that we are separated in

our travel. We are separate in our past as each touch, each

look, each gesture has become unfamiliar, unrecognized.


My region has become lonesome in your presence. They

are lost in this desolation, in this despair that, with only inches

apart, you are distant to me. You are spacious as we,

both in our state, are broken by tragedies, broken by loss.


A language not converse, tongues unspoken that they have

become foreign to one another. They have become

unfamiliar to each eye. These are the forms as we are naked

like the trees reaching its hands in the winter cold to the heavens

for warmth of the sun, for birth in the disdain of living.


Strip bare in our wanting, in this barren wilderness, we

have become a sea of mysteries to each self. We have become

the aspect of the lingering loss. We have become the unforgiving

sight of human form as life persist to seek truth, as life persist

to be fruitful and fruitless, at times, in existing. The barren loss.



Separating Images

Separating images of yesterday as the wind breaks

from its travel, as the air breathe in itself the oxygen

of life that a morning mist devours the dawn with

the dampness of a sigh. The stillness of silence lingers

on last night’s dream, wandering somewhere before my eyes


see you again, before these coldness, with their touch, find

those footprints that disappeared long ago. It is the reality as these

words permeate into verses from my tongue like melody of sounds

in their syncopation of beauty and elegance, of grace and serenity.

As if each day form themselves in brilliance, in unpredictability, yet


predictable in the emotions of yesterday, the feelings of loss in

your eyes, in your thoughts that it once occupied my surroundings.

Once it occupied the regions of my being that tomorrow another

mystery shall find itself lost again, and again be in a wilderness of sadness.


Repeating yesterday a thousand times over unconsciously and with

consequences that they are not there, only the images remembered

from a time when two souls existed among themselves, from a time

when hermits breathe in the enchantment of lyrics, the enchantment

of thorns in bleeding hands and suffering hearts. And I have become


myself unpredictable in these separation to repeat them over again

for them to linger on, for them to crave, to devour the second that my

soul skip an existence, each moment when I forget myself among

them the ruins left for the dead, and each hunger is a journey that the

earth allows those footprints to be found again in my path, again in my thoughts.




Like the sangria in front of you with the straw sticking

into the air as if it is reaching its hands to the heavens,

the sweetness of its taste savored in your tongue.

Savored with drops on your lips, a picture taken


with the moment of your smile, your eyes that permeates

beauty in your form, a rose covers you with its smell, I see

the silhouette of a mortal sitting, a mortal living,

a mortal divine in grace. Lie the sangria with its nectar


of limited intoxication, its limited giving, an Argentinean waiter

watches in the distance to reach his hands to you in service,

he waits with patience, with eagerness of gestures and solitude.

I am the shadow that follows you in their silence, the wandering

leaves that follows the wind in its path, the sangria that

savors in your lips, in your tongue with the view of each eye.




Oh Captain, the journey’s ended and lost –

the battle’s forlorn and patience is waiting for

death to arrive. A word too deeply to tell


tears slowly in the agony of sorrow.

Here I lay serenaded by a voice known to me

sometime ago. A voice in trance, in a time


remembered where beauty create elegance,

where day exists in darkness and night

roam with the moon. My Captain,

tear away the earth from where


you stand, tear away the past

that dwell in your space as the melancholy

of joy sometimes fade, as the melancholy of

misery contain in the uncertainty of your vision.



The Catastrophe of Common Things

To wake in the new light, the will

of catastrophe of common things, eyes

stare in the depth of pictures in

dead souls floating in the water;

pale, gray, black, blue swaying

wave from wave.


And in the darkness of light

the ground has shaken

in the devastation of poverty.

A silent call whisper

in low tide to return into the

civilized unknown.


Lost corpse floating without familiarity,

without identification, tears

flow in the trauma

of death. The eternal sadness has begun.


An early morning mist hide in

dry ice, the maggots, the flies

feast in the abundance of the dead.

Cholera might return to its

glory days, Ebola and other diseases

in the jungle of the constricted,

crowded mass.


In the former years, without revolution,

without adaptation an ancient

living reveals itself to the present

with a bow and arrow,

shooting at a mechanical bird,

roaring like a thunderstorm.


Yet they knew that it was coming.

The earth had spoken

and they understood its language.


In the new light, the will of

catastrophe had tried to balance,

again, the population of the living.



The Texture of Ambiguity

I shall speak before a novel read – unknown,

a sonnet without rhyme or structure,

without substance or sound, converse

again in the language of delirium.


Before time and space – poesy creates

a linear format, in some sense,

the willing of truths in liars, the

vagueness in images for the ears


to see and eyes to read in their sounds –

yet pondering still in the verses of

sublime silence, nocturnal in its creation.


Before a story conforms into something old,

something written in the past I shall

speak then in the texture of its ambiguity.



English Structure

Of old English structure, of scholarly

form – of virtue unknown before night

falls or evening sleeps, rhyming muse


is she blessed. Of time undetermined

and Bounty conformed – of all is new

and reformed, she steals a night with


her beauty in sleep; she makes her

presence elegant in dreams when

she no longer weeps. As days were

before night, and morning after dawn,


the castrating of Pope as Eloisa to

Abelard forlorn. The winter fade upon

a spell – a witchery in human

confession is too deeply silenced – not well!



Yellow Flower

Yellow flower in its pose,

redness of the heart

like one which is a rose.


Love is my conviction

that dies from loneliness.

Yearning a decision


of my mind in free will,

suffocating in the air

that to the heart kills.


Raise from religion of god,

I am with another that

to others seem very odd.


Age has captured me in a

bottle with air running short,

she herself can not stare


at me to save me from death.

And that I die of sorrow

like the trees taking it last breath.


We are two of different ground—

she, a Christian, I—I

am something else unsound.


That we never started what is meant to be,

she and I separate in parts

as parts do in their misery.



How Do I Get The Look

How do I get the look from her eyes?

Her look of gentle love

Where no human heart can disguise.

How can I keep this dove

From spreading its wings and fly away?

This delicate petal of a rose

To not wither in its former days,

And to see it in each and every pose.


To stare at that gentle face

And glare at those starry eyes.

To put my heart in love’s place:

In the morning, noon, and evening skies.

And pair me not with no other

As I see no views of emptiness.

When love goes no further,

I do hold my heart in protest.


And she stares into my soul

With the sharpness of a knife.

The beauty of her glow

Gives nothing more than life.

I see her not as a whole.

I see her gentle love in

Her eyes that is so bold

And her heart lies there in.


Oh beauteous light in her eye! —

Give me her heart to make

The mends of human lies.

And do not force me to take

My eyes off of her beauty.

But let me love this glare

That holds such a mystery

As nothing is fair from fair.



Swimming Through Concrete

Swimming through

concrete as rain falls

on the asphalt.

The smell of tar

signifying the dirtiness

of the city.

Cars rapidly passing by

to wherever they

have to be.

And that in their life

they rush to do one

thing and forget another.

And in their structure

the same routine

applies like a monk

in his ritual of prayers.

I watch them follow

one another, pacing

not too far behind,

afraid that they might

get lost by them self.

To be noticed among a crowd

someone yells “fire!”

And the concrete did not

take their pain away.



Pictures & Images

Imagine space & time…

pictures & images –

taking what is mine,

leaving what is yours.


Where there’s a photograph

taken, to capture what

was there: dead is it

already by all the mishaps.


Ways of remembering the dead,

savoring the beauty, reliving

a memory of the things

that are seen in our head.



Intersecting Lines

The light serenely draws the lines of your curves

with the texture of shadow, lines

moving straight, intersecting—lines that points

to every crevices, carving every inch of you

as though a camera has captured you in a pose.

And your nakedness lie patiently like a still-life

painting: one side shadow, the other side

with light reflecting, bouncing off of your flesh.

As though the air is suffocating at each breath,

it wakes at the touch of your nose, breathing life

into that molded clay of yourself, exhaling

CO2 into the atmosphere for the earth to regenerate

itself to return again its beauty. Where the morning draws

your silhouette, the evening raptures you in its mysteries.



The Da Da Song

Oh the day goes by like the Da Da artists

in the abstract view of life,

fun in music, joyful in living. And the song

goes: A da da da, rump, thump, pump,

a da da da, rump, thump, pump, a da da da.

As the song repeats itself over again I watch

her bouncing my head to her beat.

A da da da, a da da da as though tomorrow

would repeat itself the same way; fun

and free from worries. Hiding myself in

her thoughts, bouncing in her head to

somewhere unknown, somewhere familiar

to her in her memory. A da da da, rump, thump, pump,

the repetition repeats itself again and again, gleefully.



I Dreamt of Che Last Night

I dreamt of Che last night in his journey

up the Americas, from Argentina, to Chile—up to

Macchu Picchu to reach the heavens and to the tip of

Venezuela. His heart fell in its

heaviness when he saw those sad eyes of people who were

driven from their homes by landowners, looking for jobs

to pay their rent, looking for any jobs just to raise

their family: their faces warned out from suffering, tired

from searching, their eyes filled with sorrow and their heart

hungry for salvation. This is their hell, wandering through

the earth just to exist; just to find themselves among

the living. It is the unwritten piece of Neruda’s epic passion—

Lorca’s cry for freedom at 3 a.m. There are the people

without a voice, a tongue, silent in their humble living.

Nature beat them with snow and “The Mighty One” took

them as far a motorcycle could go.

And he reached out to the lepers in their colony,

swimming across the river in the celebration of his birth,

separating the sick from the non-sick.

A symphony congregate among the instruments

to write the lyrics of his journey, finding

compassion in the indigenous, fighting for those

that were left stranded in their suffering.

Before Bolivia reached out her hands to capture

him, he had already changed society,

waking the unrest of the weak, building

ruins among the beauty of civilization.

I dreamt of a wanderer traveling to find

himself in existence, exploring the unknown

of the land of his continent and found

his future in the presence where his destined

road had given him an esoteric path.

I found Che in my dream along the coast

of Chile traveling up the Andes to
Macchu Picchu as the Venezuelan Symphony

called to him in his wandering.



Niagara! Niagara!

Niagara! Niagara!

Tiptoeing on wires, bridge building

just to capture your beauty,

in the spectacle of amusement.

Niagara! Niagara!

Border in between two nations

one degrading another while

the other just wants to exist.

Niagara! Niagara!

Barreling down from the calm

stream to the rushing gorge

down below for fame.

Niagara! Niagara!

When snow falls in winters

giving the eloquence of majestic beauty

for minds to wonder and eyes to see.

Niagara. Niagara.

In the harmony of repetition

beauty never cease even in

payment for a quick view.

Flocking in factories and human touch

that natural beauty is not for the few

but for eyes to see the rush and watch the calmness.

Niagara. Niagara.



Consider Him, Colored

Consider him, colored,

born into slavery, freed

when the South failed to

separate from the Union.

Consider him, colored,

self-educated with a vision

of equality—to learn

a trait, a vocation, to earn

their status in this new opportunity.

Consider him, colored,

‘The Tuskegee Machine’ built

a vocational vision to

progress in the struggle

to be


to advance in their new freedom.

Consider him, colored,

named after its first President

Booker T. Washington.

A name that may have been

taken from his former master.

He might’ve have said, “We are colored,

we are proud. We are colored!

and deserve no less than equal opportunity.

We are colored—we are human,

created equal to every man,

created equal to everyone.”

He is The Tuskegee Machine,

born into slavery at birth, destined

to lead his people to prosperity

in vocational education.

Consider him, colored,

brilliant—with a voice

of truth, a voice

with a vision to progress

in the new struggle: equality,


Consider him, colored,

The Tuskegee Machine.

Booker T. Washington!

The Tuskegee Machine!