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About this poet

Jenny Johnson received an MA in teaching from the University of Virginia and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. She is the author of In Full Velvet (Sarabande Books, 2017).  She has received numerous awards and scholarships, including a 2015 Whiting Award and a 2016–2017 Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. She teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Gay Marriage Poem

We could promise to elope
like my grandmother did
if a football team won

on homecoming night.
We could be good queers?
An oxymoron we never

longed for. We could
become wed-locked
as the suffix was once intended:

laiko, Common Teutonic for play,
not loc, Old English for a cave,
an enclosure. Instead

of a suit, I could wear my T-shirt
that avows, “Support Your Right
to Arm Bears!” Or we could

wed in bear suits
just as I saw people do
one summer in San Francisco

standing amid a grassy median
during rush hour.
They were so personally

anonymously political
blocking the ocean breeze
in acrylic fur.

Forget such solemnities!
I want to run through streets
shouting up to all my beloveds’ windows:

Friends! In sickness and in health
I refuse to forsake you!
on Charlotte Street, Home,

Euclid, Decatur, Union,
Straubs, Rebecca, Bennett Ave.,
38th, Woolslayer Way.

In the only wedding I was a part of
I was the flower girl
who held up the ceremony

kneeling to drop equal dividends of
petals beside every pew,
refusing to leave anyone out.

Let us speak without occasion
of relations of our choosing!
Tied intricately

as the warps and wefts
amid mats of moss,
without competing for sunlight

our hairy caps are forever
lodging in spaces
that myopic travelers can’t see.

Of such loves unwrit, at the boundary layer
between earth and air,
I feel most clear.

From In Full Velvet. Copyright © 2017 by Jenny Johnson. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Sarabande Books, www.sarabande.org.

From In Full Velvet. Copyright © 2017 by Jenny Johnson. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Sarabande Books, www.sarabande.org.

Jenny Johnson

Jenny Johnson

Jenny Johnson is the author of In Full Velvet (Sarabande Books, 2017).

by this poet

poem

I do not know how
she felt, but I keep

thinking of her—
screaming out to an empty street.

I had been asleep
when I heard a voice

screaming, Help!
and frantic, when I opened my door.

I remember her shoulders
in the faded towel I found   

before she put

2
poem

I was alone in a dyke bar we’d traversed before
or maybe it was in a way all our dives

merging together suddenly as one intergalactic composite,
one glitter-spritzed black hole,

one cue stick burnished down to a soft blue nub.
Picture an open cluster of stars

managing to forever

2
poem

Tonight at a party we will say farewell
to a close friend’s breasts, top surgery for months
she’s saved for. Bundled close on a back step,
we wave a Bic lighter and burn her bra.
At first struggling to catch nylon aflame,
in awe we watch as all but the sheer black
underwire melts