Iowa Writes

JAY JOHNSON
The Lisbon Café


At the Lisbon Café I look God
in the eye of every farmer.
I praise them for my eggs over easy
and whole wheat toast.
They come from their wives, their beans
to do some honest swearing,
wearing baseball caps with PRIDE SEED.
More corn has been planted at the Lisbon Café
than in all of Lisbon.
Weathermen, they are the last
of their kind, diagramming the grid
of their fields in air.
Knuckles scrubbed rough as potatoes
they plant hands around mugs,
chinked like faces the sun
stays on all seasons.

At the Lisbon Café I look God
in the eye of every farmer.
I praise them for my eggs over easy
and whole wheat toast.
They come from their wives, their beans
to do some honest swearing,
wearing baseball caps with PRIDE SEED.
More corn has been planted at the Lisbon Café
than in all of Lisbon.
Weathermen, they are the last
of their kind, diagramming the grid
of their fields in air.
Knuckles scrubbed rough as potatoes
they plant hands around mugs,
chinked like faces the sun
stays on all seasons.

Interwoven, all elbows, hogs are steady 
and someone wins in Vegas.
A large farmer nudges the thick
sprawled woman wearing triplets
of diamonds beneath the cuff
of her red windbreaker.
“Don’t tell me no gossip,
just tell me who’s sick or died!”
My ear falls into the deep meadow
of his voice. He digs his shirt,
plaid like his fields, faded with love
of sun and washing;
drags on a Chesterfield,
sounds like the uphill pull
of tractor.

I go to the Lisbon to see the honest
hand that turns the calf and reinvents the earth.
I praise these men who plant their wives
and raise their sons, while their tan
bright boys, ready, undone,
pull on Levis, shit-kickin’ Fryes,
and back out while sun
sours the feedlot and the dog
circles his shadow
until he lies down.

I walk in a slow rain past Chevy Impalas
and Oldsmobiles, past the dome light that stays
on in the old Dodge, into a field of lambs
carved in headstones. I step
over generations of farmers, their love
for luck and money and prayers
for rain and no wind.
Where they’re planted in rows,
under bone-hard earth no rain can save.
I come to a stone fallen sideways
with age. A chiseled hand with finger
that used to point the way toward God,
now points toward the Lisbon Café.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JAY JOHNSON

Jay Johnson publishes in literary reviews, anthologies, and magazines, including The North American Review, Tampa Review, and Voices on the Landscape. She has read for NPR and conducts workshops in the schools. She has been a board member of The Des Moines National Poetry Festival since its inception.

This page was first displayed
on January 07, 2007

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