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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, January 31, 2017.
About this Poem 

“I tried to write a poem of witness. Then I decided that, for me, the more honest poem was the one about what a witness can’t know about another person’s experience.”
—Jenny Johnson

Spaces

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 on my blue sweats
and white T-shirt. Call 911

please, she said.
When the officer arrived

I said, I found her there after the—
But she said,

No, that wasn’t what
happened.

What must be valued
I’m learning,

in clarity and in error,
are spaces

where
feelings are held.

Here—in a poem?
And elsewhere

Copyright © 2017 by Jenny Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Jenny Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Jenny Johnson

Jenny Johnson

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

by this poet

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

Your child is a little lion cub
ready to tear into
a hunk of antelope is
a fuse bursting into
electric sprays of light
is trouble, you
say, like me. Has
your eyes though, pale
as the eggs of quail.

Yes. And also, shouting
No! as I reach for her balled fist

poem

Come second heartbeat sounding in the breast
Come prismatic light dissembling
Come familiar spirit  Come bare-chested in the weeds
Come private imposter  Come hidden ballast
Come sudden departures  Come stress without shape
Because belief is odd  Come swaggering answer
Come invisible