Jessica Johnson

Jessica Johnson is a community college instructor in Portland, Oregon, where she lives with her husband and two small children. Her chapbook, In Absolutes We Seek Each Other (New Michigan Press) was a finalist for an Oregon Book Award. She has recent work in 32 Poems and The Account. She’s on Twitter @jjopdx.

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THE UNDERSTORY

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Behind the house, beyond the yard–

a plunging, an over-growth, a milky way

of night and branches:

frond-nest, silver trickling,

truck carcass, ivy-covered.

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And still we sleep.

Our work-selves, having risen

from our bodies,

hang on hooks

like sad angels biding

their time in the dryness

so our invertebrate souls

can rest:

down, down

in a sleep-ravine

where you and I

and the baby are swimming

and she slips

from our hands, wide-eyed, sinking

like an orange

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and that is when I wake from

the water:

stumbling through

clinging dark, unprotected,

toward someone crying.

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A WORLD

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in which some students always write in which and never which,

having made a faulty inference from a teacher’s marks

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in which the wind rolls the city, whisks the hillside skyward

in which the moon rides through a cooling sky

like one of the cowboys I remember from childhood

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in which I’ve been asked to find a poem for a funeral

in which I’ve spent days on the patio cloistered by trees

watching the baby learn to smile

in which my throat exists

in which I’m visited again and again by the thought

that babies exactly this real are right now passing from the world

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in which I say “pass,” implying continuance

in which I can’t believe

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in which the cowboys of my childhood

may only have looked like cowboys

in which the worldwide empire of containers

will deliver a pocket size digital audio recorder

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in which the wind leaves none of us untouched

in which it implies a vastness elsewhere

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in which every decent elegy is particular, non-transferrable

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