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Meridian Johnson


Not Within Walls

Not Within Walls

After dark, closing the gate.
            Smoke from the fire blotches the Mexican chocolate sky.
Cinnamon dirt smudged by pinion. I appear

and disappear. Faces.
            Thought wave thought.


Funnel clouds above.
            Des Moines, Iowa, holding two girl hands.
Blood rapid dash, moist fingers. Feet
            crossing the grocery store parking lot.

On Halloween I burned the oldest with a curling iron.
            The weather, almost as swish as mistake.
Accident burn. Inexperienced
tornado reverie every time.

            Honesty is a horse at play.


I wished the storms would stop retreating.
            Sweep clean this petrified stance.
Let me be the buck rub against willow.

                                    I mean, storms
come in their cycle,
            winding the heavens into brief knots.
Lightning flushed faces, plunge in temperature.             
            All the leaves quiver.
Animals hide, heads tucked.


Age and wisdom are musk.

            Fennel bulb, seeds. Root.
Laughter in the clutch of that singed mouth.
            Soft rupture, twisted envelope.
Butter in a cup, oil and melt.

Sync up with these arms, my beloved.
            They are lithe like wasp whip.


Some tundra notion, distance a useless suspect.

            I grazed all afternoon on my mistakes.
Chucked rocks from far away, startling.

            A ragged song. A sunflower of evocation.
Only scavengers came near.
Raven, come and eat these seeds of me.


Frustration in mid swing. Fuck
            the goddamned laundry. Suck and lick scrapes and go on

loving. We shingled the dirt road with hoof prints.

            Where the sky doesn’t end we end.

River rocks, so much weathered proof, gathered and bluffed.
            No posing the ungroomed station of raw raw heat.
After this day fully deposited.
Chuff off excess logos.

            Naked and bled.


One silver consideration. Fantasy always tarnishes.
            I uttered hands so broken, reached for flannel.
Blind in at least one eye.

            Rocks in the Grand Canyon diced by distance, stuccoed between the eye rim
and lid. Punched my own eye with thoughts.
How old my hands become, smashing, building slash.

            My dear, I have been looking for not a brittle bird.


Retching from break. How betrayal came flopping over my mouth, ears.
            But I watched and watered briskly, half half tears.

Count how many times I stuffed the essentials hurriedly in a duffle. 
            Fucking. Out. Of. Here.
Inside this circle. Outside this circle. Nothing to
claim, sitting on curbs outside of houses.

            Inside—apparition mice, varmints to ridicule.
Outside—twice-wronged amulets worn to shards.

            Loosen hair from a bun. The sun blanched my grip like
green beans steamed, soft and giving.


Time is roost for decrepit cocks.
            Not such a thing exists so don’t impose.

Back on these sits bones in the garden. Beet and turnip greens.
            Slugs hot oozing the leaves of pumpkins.
These children risen from pasture of lay. Thrash shriveled tomatoes.
            Stomp sunflowers seedless. Play.

After a time of confusion, hair disheveled imagistically,
I get it straightened.
            See how we dine this night on light.


Single opening in the east.
            A raven’s legs squatting on my bent tent poles.
This is no church of Missouri Lutheran Synod.
            I wear a wild hood as a child.
Brash blue sky and spit for consideration, prayer.
            Alcove of cliff, homogenous Colorado plateau, Navaho sandstone.
Once I am inside this circle
            I never want to leave.


Fire never changes its prescription.
            Surefire remedy. Smoke of something, but what?

See, breath and spark sing. Purr.
            This is a tobacco past. I was born where there were no enclosures
and where everything drew a free breath.

I camp my back on the forest. Down in it.
            Head hair evolved in this position. A pillow
for nights and stories. I’ve brought words and portions of eschewed grammar.
            To transfer form, transform.



My love, speak without sound in a listening stance.
            Have already hunted the night.
Flesh, meat. Fresh.
            Unwrap the flanks and rest.


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Meridian Johnson, formerly Stephanie N. Johnson, is the author of Kinesthesia, a full-length poetry collection published in 2010 by New Rivers Press. Her work appears in AGNI, Borderlands, BPJ, Gettysburg Review, Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota, and a BA in English from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. She lives in northern New Mexico with her two daughters. Her website is

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