Table of Contents



Jessica Johnson



Body of trees a block of dark outside the home-office your body your attention pending here before the day's reactions and—


the way dark cedars suck light from sky
the way dark hills suck light from air the trees
more perfect black more perfect black
until the flood of daylight.




Daylight equals lists and tasks. Each item on the tasklist signifies a body in a place doing something it has come to consider important buy plants dentist grading kids room workout each task containing an array of other tasks the regular life proliferating its own maintenance its packaging inevitably forming the substrate of the dayplan the detritus attracting itself, coalescing. Elsewhere, plastic gathers on the ocean.

Day's abrasions produce excess feeling. Someone okay several someones did not reply. Most everyone forgot to mention. The colleague asserted his in fact pretty limited expertise by telling you how things actually arethe screen's particular kind of light swelling a bit of brain restricting blood to the ocular until the world chafes vision and the wind the trees the clouds feel built for harm.


In efforts to avoid an untimely release of Excess Feeling in efforts to make your body less you commence workout which eats with its molecular teeth pooled up Excess Feeling. The device records your motion translates you into an equation. You respire heavily on campus sweating your foundation wearing clothes not meant for anyone to see.




Home: before the day starts birds eat away at silence. Their twitter nibbles darkness into lace the printer hums because you didn't think to turn it off.

The devices eat electrons and electrons and electrons which come from a spilled river which come from a coal fire and the river spills salmon bodies and the coal fire blooms heat and the devices yield heat and the cherry trees swell early and the summer kills. Outlets beg for the prongs of devices.

Cat wears her only clothes. Touch cat and she chirps. (Touch—chirp. Touch—chirp.)

The regular life eats money the cars eat money each device needs its own cover each life in your home in fact needs coverage and money eats time and even before the day starts well before the dark sky erupts in birdsong—

Cat the beloved specimen the invasive species cat the little piece of midnight velvet attaches briefly to carpet storing up energy her characteristic throat music the sound that first endeared you to her that persuaded you to choose her to feed and warm and watch over her furred body with its bits of sharp despite. Cat too: charging.       




Despite so many attempts to resolve this tension, sometimes you are you and also sometimes mother just as light can be both particle and wave a person sometimes other times a role and no one can locate you at any particular time on that continuum of you and mother at best the observers (you the self-observer) could assign a probability.

Mother's precursor is girl or at least that's what they called you a half-naked self-decorating thing dirt smeared making songs from anything. Girl, a kind of song-being.

Mother was a girl who never saw a long-needled pine a streetside locust a groomed red maple without wanting to inhabit it, wanting to wave just like it wanting to glow just like it wanting a shape just like it.

(And what shapes can you inhabit when the cat the children keep homing to your body when they take some special kind of respite in your warmth you inhale the boy's fresh hairline your lips brush the girl's right ear.)                  




The cedar's lower story fills the home-office window. In mental reactions cedar catalyzes language: auntie, ruffled, feathers. Wind combs the white sky.

Wind plus cedars equals the motion of ghosts outside the bedroom window the motion putting the children to dream. The children dreamed in utero, blind bulbs startling in response to images they could only have inherited.

Cedar's dancing finger-fronds take up your ambition in the night and you wake as an inert gas not reacting to children or the ping ing ing ing devices.




Imagine you and the cedar arrange a psychic trade: you as she and she as you. She wakes at one resting her head on the dark sky pillow. You shed your inner soldier and feel the spread of your roots, your rising fluids. The cedar turns over a stupid thing she said at work remembers moments when she may have offended someone. You may live to be one thousand years old dry spells and fire notwithstanding. Cedar considers all the ways in which she's not enough, how her hundred feet aren't tall enough to make a home. Cedar tries coming up with ways of being better, being someone else, being something else and you—close your leaf pores to the cooler air, host a grand reaction, your body restoring itself from stored up light.




Morning, pores close, the exchange over. Run hands along your thick red bark. Flood of daylight produces the cat, coming in from murder.




In extreme times, I started thinking about the body's [self-regulating metabolic pathways]. How do they accomplish balance while preserving the possibility of self-amplifying, transformative change? This poem is an excerpt from a longer project (forthcoming in 2023) that uses the shapes of the pathways to consider how such motions play out in a domestic space.