The breaking was tremendous.
It was all we could say in our silences,
and while all we knew was this descending dark,
our tiny flames burned like the dendrites we lit
when we touched in forbidden spaces,
in the days when space itself was forbidden,
except when you were claiming, making,
owning, and taking it, and we were twirling
tiny leotarded dancers in the wind. We would
not go gently, we whispered, refugees from
ourselves, from the forever metals and the
concrete that no one would name except
when they were about to be paved.
We lay our hands into its give, as if to take it
back and heal what was choking beneath it, as if
to say, Look. That was me, I was here, and the roles
were forever ambiguous: the hero or the damned,
the sailor or the slaughtered, the seventh son
or the seventh daughter in a row buried
up to her neck for seven days in the heat,
learning to wait.
My people are not the ones to tell you how to think,
and I spent lifetimes wishing they were, but we are
fluent in the language of losing it all, and if you cry
wherever two of us are gathered, you will not be alone,
because we will listen with you, to the wailing in the wind,
of the mothers on the road, making the sounds
of their babies
after they stopped.
Our voices are what we raise because we have found
no other way yet, to call attention to those
forever without them, who died without ––
We were listening and the war was everywhere,
but so was the noise, and it rose like a B-movie zombie,
grabbing our necks.
Stacey C. Johnson writes and teaches in San Diego County. She is a graduate of the MFA program at San Diego State University. Her work appears in Oyster River Pages, Pacific Review, and Fiction International, as well as various other publications. You can find her at staceycjohnson.com and on Twitter @StaceCJohnson.