Sally J. Johnson
About the Writer
Sally J. Johnson received her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where she served as Managing Editor for the award-winning literary journal Ecotone. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in The Collagist, Bodega, The Pinch, and elsewhere. Most recently, she was a finalist in Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize for Nonfiction and won Madison Review’s Phyllis Smart-Young Prize for Poetry. She is a freelance publicist and writer living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Find her online: @sallyjayjohnson.
[Where through the window can god see this]
Where through the window can god see this
catastrophe of love? I want him to see it. I want
to show him my kneecaps so he’ll know he's a fraud.
I'd show god your jawbone, each worn tooth
of your worry white like tight knuckles. Instead I kiss your neck,
lick the sweat from behind your ear, my name in your mouth.
I don't know if we were meant for this moment,
if fate is evolution, our brains just engines for sex, but
I know we are still hunters. I can see it
in your fingernails, the way they grow and grow.
I am told of the three divers who slicked themselves into a pool of radioactive water after the Chernobyl disaster while I am drinking liquor. Liquid being everything. Pulling a plug meaning mercy, almost always. The men were buried in lead. Inside my city there is a sound I first mistook for cicada song but it is a mechanism meant to keep the birds away from building rooftops.
The Moon, A Mirror, A Lantern
flounders are white and shiny on their sides without sight. they cannot see what slips beneath their opacity, that dark looking side. they are floored and forced to look the other way. ignorant, unless they are flipped, that there is sunlight there; a bright underwater-like blindness ready to flash across a face.
I can almost see the coins of light in my dog's eyes turn every time I say a command she can recognize. the word outside sends her flying but not without first that flash of white teeth, the opening wider of her dark eyes to see everything, the whole world making sense and made especially for her.
when I saw the eagle ray she was dead and still bleeding into the kiddy pool that barely fit her. her spots so white I wanted a scarf of her pattern. I wanted her beak back in the ocean, but she had jumped from her home to the boat where three men couldn't lift her back over the edge and instead cut off her tail for fear she'd kill them: instinct or her own alarm. the necropsy would be performed after I left her but not before I saw the barb of her appendage, that lonely missile, the thing that could have saved her, could have killed. I think about her often. how her slimy skin was drying, the gray of her muted once dry, the white spots still trying to shine.
when I think of the coldest I’ve ever been I don’t think of Michigan winters
instead: us dresses up/ undone by ourselves/ wax-myrtle wind goosebumping our knees/ ashes at our ankles/ and a blanket not big enough for the breaking our hearts would be doing later// we learned layers aren’t enough for a North Carolina coast come winter/ come the star-scathing sky/ sand packed perfect like ice// I know no one is ever careful enough/ not you in your nervousness/ not me either/ all eager// regret as hangover/ as a way to remember/ as a bruise without color// nakedness warmed us/ whiskey warmed us// nothing was enough// the body learned long ago to bristle at the harsh of human hands/ to suffer heat/ to bear it when there’s not enough of either