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Michele K. Johnson

the desire path

the girl and her exercises to remain rendered from a telescope

the desire path

                         between our houses relies heavily on trunks marked
            with string tied around them to mark the way: which kind, and where:
 some days laced pearly glint, or strung with rough rock-like cysts, chunks
                  removed from the face of an edifice graffitied Mark loves
                      Shelby ’97  FUCK weed4life, and sometimes
              it’s lizard skin—gecko tails pulled off haphazard because
                                                             they’ll grow back.

the leveling sun lifts its leg to mark us, hurls x-rays,
slides wavelengths across the table face-down.

shady-filtered pulp gets on the ground, your sweatshirt rumples a sheen
            when I use the sleeve, but you’ll put it back on. The dirt, gummy and pale
      wears my hands, winters them, summers them. And the birds spy, what
                can they make of it? I don’t remember you showing any plumes,
      a graffiti transplant marshaled and wrecked across
                        your shoulders and arms.

the leveling sun lifts its leg to mark us, hurls x-rays,
presses into my back like disks on a tambourine.

if it’s a deer, I worry what she’s seen, each spot on her back flashing an eye;
            the ants, intricately-limbed reporters, eat up bits of the rubber as proof,
      building their hills with spittle,  and the downed tree, with its exposed roots,
                has learned from itself.  The woods, with its layers of dirt, record
       everything: drought and flood, but I am
                        forgetting already.

the leveling sun lifts its leg to mark us, hurls x-rays
that rip with me through the screen door, and dinner’s on.

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the girl and her exercises to remain
rendered from a telescope:

    tell the teller and what’s left out won’t rise up,
             will rise up, depending. If the moon, yes,
    if the sun, yes. What’s buried and between
            rumbles alive to quote what’s missing, to make
    shapes of it in the air with their fingers
             and toes, and map and map—why can’t I see
    the bits I leave behind
            on things? I should know, those molecules
    bear me, all of me, and their maps remember:
             this is how I lose.

    those things which color
           the backs of our eyelids when we sleep,
   drawing over and over again
           the infinity sign, the spines and spleens
   of animals, the bobbed tails of cats,
           in their prisms where all sides
    narrow into one.

    grasping renders it all splayed
          too neatly, more precise than it is—the points converge
    and the slat-lines don’t condense into walls,
          but remain: those places that resist
    definition, enduring scattered in the shift
          from known to what else.

    don’t wonder where it goes.
          like Pluto’s twin, newly-discovered, these things
    burrow dark and don’t begin to ache
          until the connective cord raises up against fingers, sought
    and kept by the relegation of so much light.

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Michele K. Johnson is a MFA student at George Mason University, where she also works as an instructor in Composition and Literature. She has published previously in The Ampersand ReviewThe Montucky Review, and 491 Magazine. She is also the Assistant Editor of George Mason University's feminist literary journal, So to Speak.

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