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What Could It Hurt? Three poems by K.L. Johnston

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

Greyscale, illustration of a hand reaching down to lift up another's hand, black background, charcoal grey hands have a lightly glowing outline, image by Htc Erl, on Pixabay , modified.

(image by Htc Erl, on Pixabay, modified)

After Hours, Before the Altar

Belly down in the carpet,

crushed rough fibers at eye level,

life’s perceptions shift.

There is no room

for pride in the prostrate.

The cross so far above,

untouchable, the stained glass,

prismed light glowing.

What am I doing here?

Tears surely will not leave

stains on the industrial weave.

An uncomfortable obedience:

in this posture time does not exist

and one can only receive

what’s given. I am certainly

in no position to make

demands, to say “give me,”

and can only choke out

an incoherent “please.”

When the washing of the heart

is done and perspectives of grace

are restored, it is not the janitor’s hand

lifting me up or his voice

saying, “For Heaven’s sake, get up.”


In the Presence of Angels

Angelic messengers are

prone to say, “Be not afraid.”

Startling as it is

to have a being of light pop

into your bedroom, or meet

you on the trail, or shouting

in legions in a starry

night, they say this with perfect

assurance. Really, it’s a

back-handed compliment when

they appear, showing up in

those moments of decision,

of unmistakable call.

They appear only when their

gravitas lends urgency

to the news, or the command

is to go questing, to do

uncomfortable, dangerous,

and impossible deeds, or

just to be respectful and

keep your mouth shut like Sarah.

Like Zechariah.

Frail, and built for worship but

inclined toward fear, of course, we

are afraid in this presence.

Living light appearing in

your living room is soul deep

proof that heaven’s own courage

is the only abatement

for fear. Dithering is no

longer acceptable or

your story ends like Balaam.

Like Jonah.

And yet we crave their presence,

something from the infinite,

a gentled other walking

among us, reassuring

that they are fellow servants

with us and we must arise.

Frighteningly objective,

reminding us time and space

are just dimensions like height

or breadth, beyond this small earth

wheeling on the breath of the

infinite Spirit, where we

cannot control, are party

to miracles, always loved,

never alone.


What Could It Hurt?

When you told me not to pray for

you, the only thing I could

reply was, “What could it hurt?”

If you believe what you say

you believe, and I believe

what I say I believe, the

worst that could happen is that

I might be wasting my time.

I can do that just by

browsing online. At least this

leads me to think well of you

and with kind thoughts. In this world

we all need kind thoughts.

Just on the off chance that you

are mistaken and there is

a benevolent, loving

Someone out there, would it hurt

you if they knew that there are

people (me for one) who think

you are worth the time?

Because sometimes my prayers for

you begin by holding you,

your image, in my mind and

saying, “Oh Lord, look upon

this wonderful child of yours

breathing potential light. Please,

dear Lord, raise them up to shine.”


K.L. Johnston received her degree in English and Communications from the University

of South Carolina. Her poetry has appeared in literary journals, magazines and anthologies

since the 1970s. She enjoys exploring the connections of humanity with the physical, spiritual, and liminal places she has stumbled into in her travels and in her own backyard. You can follow her on Facebook at A Written World.

October 2023 Issue

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Dec 02, 2023

I especially love "What Could It Hurt?" Wonderful!

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