Sally J. Johnson


like an ambulance
lapping up the dark.

beetle-backed glistening
lashes black like tomorrow's
nighttime. the bite of red
lipstick. little pieces of glitter.
ask if this is camouflage.

practice being a woman
who could wake up alone
and not find that frightening.

this is not an exercise to see
how long a girl can stay
in chrysalis. do not compare
yourself to the simple
insect. if picked up and placed
on another piece of the planet
you wouldn't be caught
or stuck. you'd be free
to crawl back whenever
you wanted. or wait there
if you wanted. will you
forgive every single metaphor
hung around your skinny neck?

you are not feline. feel around
for yourself when it is dark
and dip your fingers into a
pomade to push
your hair back but don't beat yourself
into a smaller being. be a robot
if you'd like it. do or don't
be a wasp. unwrap every word
you are swaddled in. leave
them behind like paper
carcasses, just husks. no,
nothing, they are nothing
and you are not the siren,
but the sound.

Sally J. Johnson received her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where she served as Managing Editor for the award-winning literary journal Ecotone. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in the Collagist, Bodega, the Pinch, Weave, and elsewhere. Most recently, she was a finalist in Sycamore Review's Wabash Prize for Nonfiction and won Madison Review's Phyllis Smart-Young Prize for Poetry. She is a poetry editor for Green Briar Review and works as a publicist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Find her online: @sallyjayjohnson.

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