Quickly Aging Here

By Denis Johnson b. 1949 Denis Johnson

nothing to drink in
the refrigerator but juice from   
the pickles come back
long dead, or thin
catsup. i feel i am old

now, though surely i
am young enough? i feel that i have had   
winters, too many heaped cold

and dry as reptiles into my slack skin.   
i am not the kind to win
and win.
no i am not that kind, i can hear

my wife yelling, “goddamnit, quit   
running over,” talking to
the stove, yelling, “i
mean it, just stop,” and i am old and


i wonder about everything: birds
clamber south, your car
kaputs in a blazing, dusty
nowhere, things happen, and constantly you

wish for your slight home, for
your wife’s rusted
voice slamming around the kitchen. so few

of us wonder why
we crowded, as strange,
monstrous bodies, blindly into one   
another till the bed

choked, and our range
of impossible maneuvers was gone,
but isn’t it because by dissolving like so   
much dust into the sheets we are crowding

south, into the kitchen, into   

Denis Johnson, “Quickly Aging Here” from The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly: Poems Collected and New. Copyright © 1995 by Denis Johnson. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1995)

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Poet Denis Johnson b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Midlife, Home Life, Relationships, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Denis  Johnson


Denis Johnson was born in Munich, Germany where his father worked for the State Department. Johnson grew up in the Philippines, Japan, and Washington D.C. and earned an MFA from the University of Iowa. An award-winning novelist, short story writer, and playwright, Johnson published his first collection of poems, The Man Among the Seals (1969), at the age of twenty. Subsequent collections include Inner Weather (1976), The . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Midlife, Home Life, Relationships, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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