Three Poems by Molly Johnsen

Limits

Years ago, in winter’s dim, you said
you’d never imagined the sun
as something that spins.

Your neck smelled like the pines

circled solid around us; the lake ringed
itself outward beyond. We used to dance
like a lightning storm–
barely there, flashing,

and briefly revealing the surface

of things. But we’ve long since
shed that skin. Still, it spins.

Down here,
we contain ourselves lazily:

loose lids. And the pines tower

too high to take in. The ring

in your nose is a full circle, I know,
but from where I sit

metal stops at skin.

Having a Seizure In Front of My Father

You held my tongue
down, you say,
and I imagine
blood.
But the doctor says
that’s a myth–
             no one bites–
nothing
is all you can do
and, when I wake,
choose to tell me.

How do I know the world
keeps going
While I flail (your word)
on the couch
             or in the street?

When I leave home for home
             Rhode Island for New York City
I begin again
to imagine you
slouching into slanted
light. Making coffee,
smoking weed.
You talk
to your bamboo.
You sleep
alone diagonally.
Sometimes you sauté meat.

You don’t like it when I call
while walking,
all those sirens, car horns,
could-be’s.
When I don’t pick up,
my phone transcribes
your voice:
Hi, McCall,
I hope
you had a twice live stapler.   

Alone Together

The wind shakes
the moon till it blinks
behind leaves like
headlights:
you say, breathe.
I’m only a piece
of the before-you me.
Or maybe it’s the other
way around: maybe I’m
more of me now. Bones
strengthen after breaking.
Toes on cold tile, we
see each other
side-by-side, we
watch each other
brush our teeth.
I spit white foam, afraid
you know—
I’m an emergency.

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