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Homeland by Stacey C. Johnson

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 and on Twitter @StaceCJohnson.

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