Jonathan Johnson

Longing Is Not Desire


Longing was never meant to be satisfied.
Alone with the ruins on the grassy promontory,
low sun of early January on the sea,
I long to be alone with the ruins,
low sun of early January on the sea.
When at last I look back, I long to look back,
ruins in silhouette over silhouette of rocks,
some of what’s left of the day showing
through former windows. What desire makes
crumbles with the weight of its own creation.
But longing, longing wants most when it has. So forgive me,
when our blankets are spread before the cottage fire
and it’s been night after night since I’ve touched your skin,
if my finger tip lingers along one last seam.


“Longing Is Not Desire” is reprinted from The Missouri Review.

Jonathan Johnson is the author of two books of poems, Mastodon, 80% Complete (2001) and In the Land We Imagined Ourselves (2010), both from Carnegie Mellon University Press, and the nonfiction book, Hannah and the Mountain: Notes Toward a Wilderness Fatherhood (University of Nebraska Press, 2005).  His work has appeared in the Best American Poetry, The Writer’s Almanac, and numerous other anthologies, as well as Southern Review, Missouri Review, Ploughshares, North American Review, and Prairie Schooner.  Johnson migrates between upper Michigan, Scotland, and eastern Washington, where he teaches in the MFA program at Eastern Washington University.

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