Playwright on Forrest Street

March 09, 1992

IT HAS been quite a couple of weeks for H.B. Johnson. First he won WMAR-TV's 10th annual drama competition with his play, "A Gift From the Hunters," winning over 75 other entries. Then the Arena Players held a preview of the play Feb. 26, followed by Channel 2's screening of it Feb. 29 as part of the station's celebration of Black History Month. Finally, the playwright/poet was featured on NBC's "Today" show Monday morning, March 2. He read two of his poems, both published earlier on this page.

Johnson had to absent himself from much of the hoopla. He is a prisoner at the Maryland State Penitentiary, serving a 25-year term without parole for assault with intent to murder and robbery with a deadly weapon.


The world must look like ice

through blue eyes;

Like an island through green,

a volcano through gray,

a grave through brown.

But through human eyes,

It just looks like people

With no reason to frown


(on Row vs. Wade) Well,

Today is my birthday;

19 years old I be.

Older than

a newborn child,

Younger than the hangman's tree.

Don't know why you

wanna spoil my party,

By lying in the streets.

Too holy to help

blow out the candles,

Then put a match to me.

Here it is, a most ugly fact

I'm only a piece of paper.

Just like the death

warrants that you sign

That kill

Poor children . . . LATER.


Please leave

my death to me.

Save your tears

for a better day.

Beyond that door

walks someone,

Needing help along the way.

Leave here quietly,

With the roar of peace in your hearts,

Lest some child

again be cheated,

Given a false start.

I will be behind you,

Always looking around.

Now let's do it:

Take me to the garden

And plant me in the ground.

H.B. Johnson Jr.

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