12 floors above the earth - title

Author Photo
Photo by Peter Johnson  

In Cecelia Johnson’s newest book, Oh Days of Happy Memory, nostalgia, wit, vivid detail, strong feeling, and the omnipresence of water (especially the Delaware River) create remarkably clear and accessible poems that are a joy to read. About the book, Laura Bradshaw has written this: “With telling details and evocative words, Cecelia Johnson captures most vividly a place and a time that dwell not only in the mind, but in the heart as well. Powerful memories suffuse these poems, which reflect acute observations and deep feelings that will surely reward readers."
book cover
Front cover photo by Ben Johnson

Cecelia Johnson is a native Philadelphian. She attended high school in the far reaches of northeast Philly, where she learned to relish writing, after which she attended the Philadelphia College of Art, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Thereafter, she returned to her original passion for writing and in recent years has earned credits in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa Home Study program. Cecelia has authored three books: a biography, a story of the Civil War, and a saga of the Great Depression. However, she says her finest works are the four children she and her late husband raised: Peter, Francis, Joanne, and Richard.


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ISBN 978-1-936482-41-2

Copyright © 2013 by Cecelia D. Johnson

5.5" x 8.5" paperback, 30 pages



Oh Day of Happy Memory

In January—Christmas a month past,
the Doctor had two tickets to a show.
“Call Doc, the pains are close at last.
I need him here, Frank; ask him not to go.”

“So long a time since we’ve been out,”
said Doc’s wife, forlorn and disappointed,
“but she’s our friend and there’s no doubt
she waits abed, tormented and elated.”

Doc grabbed his black bag and walked to the house
where Celie’s brow was moist, her hair awry.
He rolled his sleeves, probed and guessed:
“In no time at all a baby will cry.”

With a whimper I was handed to Frank,
whose eyes filled with tears in spite of his smile.
He kissed Celie with thanks; my face was a blank.
I snuggled with Celie who slept all the while.

One day at a time, the sages opine.
Ten thousand days since the cold winter night
make me want to go back to that precious time.
I’d come forth with a smile and do everything right.

Out of the Woods

In the distance in the dark
a dog barks.
Not a yap or a yelp
but a baritone bark,
as if he’s down the road a piece,
near the woods on a farm,
though his deep bark carries
through the sometime silence
of traffic-tangled streets where I live—
a bark in the night,
like the whistle of a faraway train.

Chapel Limbo at Eden Hall

My friend unlocks the heavy wooden door,
a shaft of light pierces the desolate dark,
a puff of air freshens musty silence.
A chapel, French style—bulky wooden pews
with broad unpadded kneelers.
Now no Kyries for daily Mass—only
dust and boarded up stained glass windows.
Altar barren, Gregorian chant mute.
I bow my head, sorry I have come.

We walk on the tile floor, footprints in dust.
Nun’s frenchy narrow stalls line the walls.
The marble floor apse is missing the rail,
the brass communion rail with ethereal tones
now fades and blends with angel choirs.
I step boldly into the sacristy
where priests vested in fiddleback chasubles
off limits to us student girls.

I am free to roam as if backstage at the Met
on a dim day after the last curtain.
My school days seem that remote, the school leveled
to a rolling park where lusty cheers
from soccer fields invade the reverence
of the brownstone place rooted in holiness.

The vandals come after dark:
a fire here, graffiti there. Hip-high weeds
cry out for the Irish gardeners.
The chapel looms, like the Mariner’s ship,
its vaulted ceiling an upturned hull,
a ghostly presence in a corner of the park.
Outside, inside, an unresponsive limbo
where lived the grandeur and splendor
of the old school’s heart.

St. Dominic’s Tower

A church bell tolls.
And the trees ring
this worship day.
Each maple, elm and birch
is a steeple. The park is alive
with their bells
encircling a field
like the surround sound
of a roundelay.

The deep, vast woods
summon us to adoration.
The tolling echoes
and my heart is lifted
through the lacey trees.

Ascension Thursday

I wished to see His greatness,
to be delivered from my pettiness.
I yearned for dazzling light,
trumpets in the night.

I needed to be absorbed
up and away from tedium’s cord
that held me bound lateral
wearing out my radials.

I wanted to plumb His depth,
to soar His starry height.
Yet, He’s in the whispering wind,
in a thought too small to tend.

I put aside my wish,
slid pastry on a dish,
sat in the back row
and watched a kindergarten show.

They did a square dance and a minuet
while a rainbow of colored T-shirts sat
waiting to do their third grade chant
and a Native-American rain dance.

It was a peaceful awareness
to see Him in the gentleness,
to see His descent in the children.

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