Sally J Johnson

[i am the universe and i am]

i am the universe and I am expanding   i am taking a brick from my body to leave in the
place of my destruction to tell my kids i stood    i am as strong as the fish odor coming from
the market next door    as pink and new as this house is to me    i am feeling my way across
the floorboards and morse-coding marbles down the drain pipes to tell the tiny trees that
have yet to be to stay in the dirt drinking up my sink water shampoo-swirling excess until
they can be as beautiful as me    as big as a lady who stays up nights to drink constellations of
wine and who wakes with water running out of her skin fast so she can trace the places
where there needs yet to be tears    a woman who wears dirt like a dress to be wed in a
growing girl growing bigger like a bug    like a star    river    mouth    like fear    ripple    snake
like the whole damned place where those things are


My father holds a towel over my white communion dress. Downstairs our matchy-match
family is wrestling for minutes and itching inside their hand-me-down gowns, suits, and
shoe-shiny shoes. You should have brushed your teeth before the dress: my father’s cigar voice, like a
psalm over the paste-stained porcelain. We look each other in the eye, through the mirror. /
I still taste that mint with Catholic wine, even after years. Guilt tastes like a sick harmony;
clean too close to drinking. / He sets me on my buckled-with-a-bow shoes, says, You can’t tell
me it was your mother’s fault. You are grown in the eyes of God now; he says this and pats my veiled
and tiny head, things can be your fault now.


Sally J. Johnson is lucky enough to work for a couple of great magazines and live in a pink house with her dog and an avid shoe collector in Wilmington, North Carolina. Her poems can be read in Fogged Clarity and The Laureate.