by Steve Johnson


by Jacqueline Jules

The Golden Key to the Garden

Slipping down the rabbit hole,
Alice wondered how many miles
she’d traveled, congratulated herself
for being brave.

Delighted to land, she was ready
to chase the White Rabbit,
greet a grinning cat or a caterpillar,
sit with the Mad Hatter for a cup of tea.

She wasn’t afraid to talk back
to the Queen of Hearts.

But when she kept changing size,
either too tall or too short,
Alice cried a pool of tears,
feeling as hopeless as I do,
unable to figure out who I am
when sometimes I feel big
and sometimes small
in a life where the golden key
to unlock the garden is always
just out of reach.



I can still see us
in that yellow hospice room
with a nondescript landscape
hanging on the wall
above your bed.

It was afternoon,
just before the last meal
you ate on your own
with a fork.

We were busy
ordering a sleek black phone
with a long battery life.

You asked if you should
buy the protection plan
in case the screen broke.

I said, “go ahead.”

And I watched you enter
the credit card number,
press submit order,
as if we hadn’t just
spoken with the doctor
and you had years,
not weeks to enjoy
a new phone.


Art by Steve Johnson on Instagram @artbystevej.