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Poetically Yours - Adventures of a boy named Rob.

Roger Johnson
Provided by Roger Johnson
Roger Johnson

Welcome to Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week’s featured poet is Roger Johnson.

Johnson lived in Sterling, Illinois most of his life. He has an English degree from Bradley University. Johnson worked for 35 years in the customer service department at National Manufacturing. After the plant closed, he worked at Freeport’s Willow Glenn Academy, a school for youth who are mentally ill and mentally impaired. Johnson then worked as a teacher’s aide at Sterling High before he retired.

Johnson said he didn’t discover poetry until college, despite his high school teachers’ efforts to make the artform stick. He credits Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, studying the Psalms, metaphysical poetry, and other things for his change of heart. He said he’s been struggling to kick the habit ever since.

He said his favorite writings contain imagery of trains, train tracks, bridges, dams, factories and mills, cornfields, rivers, rocks and walks down by the old riverside. And a unrelated subject, baseball.

Johnson is married to his wife Ginger and has four children. He now lives in Connecticut with three of them.

Today he shares his poem "Dawn's Early Light, 1957."

Little boy Rob,

All agog,

Rides in the car

With his father, Bob.

Clouds fly by,

Bulge high and wide,

But not so high and wide

They hide the bright blue sky.

On, on, he’s carried,

On toward the prairie,

Their Dodge, a blue Dart,

And dawn, back there buried.

All curled up, hooked,

Comfy in his nook,

Rob steers his own car,

A Classics Comic Book.

The old Oregon  

Trail is ho-hum,

But not Deadwood’s Dark

Star or Uncas undone.

Thunderheads form

A badlands storm:

If heroes die, so must he 

And everyone who’s born. 

Robbed, snake bit, Rob’s

Too big to sob,

Too young to rage like Job,

That he’s been jobbed.

But the classic rock

Station plays soft,

And whittled boy Rob

Nods and bobs till he drops.

“Hey, Big Boy,

It’s Illinois!”

Rob startled, stares

At a world refueled with joy.

The swarm of storm

Clouds now shorn,

And Gloom, too, shoo-flied,

Flee evening’s pinking orange.

Like corn, elephant high

By the Fourth of July,

Like a tenderfoot, unarmed,

Rob reaches for the sky.

Ah, Sheer Delight!

Red White Golden Bright.

I and Sky, eye to Eye,

Not Goodbye: Goodnight.

Sheared, sheer delight,

Plum, plumb out of sight,

But in Rob’s heart, bound

To dawn, some dark night.

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.