Overcast in the shadow of the capitol, the city is a lead song
sent up all night through populated air, capone smoke. A youngin sparks one, fires off
his hard-earned-steal steady cocked at the unanswering upthere. If there is anything past this blue
above West Virginia and Raum it’s a chorus of black boys chewing bullets with their gold fronts—
that’s alchemy. Everyone has someone to lose, just hours before: the ambulance’s red moan
across my window; one of the ladies on the stroll went into something tinted and low and
never came back. I leave my house for the first time in a week, grabbing at the nothing in my pants
to feel grounded, stealth; the whole hood lit under sodium light.
Behind the corner store where a lightbulb is out, a man holds another man in his mouth
unflinching in his hunger, stilling the man’s torso with his hand
as if lifted in praise, yes, the hand says: taken up with praise. The new year crawls
out the drain in front of them with the other roaches
I have no shoe with which to beat it back.
CONSIDER THE DEER
Consider the deer who, when I say “deer”, doesn’t know
whether or not I mean a single one, though there were two
dead and shiny with maggots on the side of the highway;
or, a group of them, always a bit lost
in the divided woods (blame our need to reach
or leave each other, faster).
Consider the deer that I saw dead
on the shoulder, midday mid-autumn,
whose neck in post-rigor mortis pining
broke itself again so that the head could face
the woods, the woods setting itself alight.
Oh, that I could turn and live again, the deer might say
recalling that one poet singing to himself, ruining the grass.
Consider that the deer, when called, won’t come alone
purely due to linguistic vagary. Who, like me, resists
the gesture toward singularity.
Call my name and the whole woods
rise up inside me. I is a plural state
of being. Consider the multitude
before my footfall; how I’m able to crane my neck back
see only myself
TAYLOR JOHNSON is proud of being from Washington, DC. They’ve received fellowships and scholarships from Callaloo, Cave Canem, Lambda Literary foundation, VONA, the Fine Arts Work Center, and the Vermont Studio Center. Their work appears in, or is forthcoming from, CALLALOO, the minnesota review, Vinyl Poetry, Hayden's Ferry Review, and elsewhere.