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Marilyn A. Johnson

The Broken Road

I live by a restaurant so hidden

only the lost can find it.

Cars show their taillights giving up.

Out by the dark of the broken road,

up a steep hill, that’s where

their creamed filets sit curdling.

Say, It happened.

That’s how long it took to happen.

She called from Mexico,

uncradled my sleep.

I dove into concrete, she cried.

Her suitcases found their own way

home. Seven bikinis. Strapless

dresses. Silk and lycra

back from vacation

circled the carousel

dreaming of her body.

I walk my neighborhood at night

on boots, on bone.

Hard steps crunch over

frost embedded in asphalt,

everything but music

making a kind of music.

The restaurant glows

useless through the pines.

The waiter quits waiting,

pitches slivered beans and

baguettes into the ravine,

serves the night.


The air hoarded moisture all day,

then just before dinner,

I raced the downpour and sat with a TV tray,

watching the sky turn black and

beat the glass doors.

Baton Rouge, not our city, each street

marked by hurricane. Mom sealed

in the house, Dad sealed in the Chrysler.

I couldn’t sleep there—the night

thumped with insects,

lizards dropped onto the roof.

Lashed to my bike by the smothering air, I felt like

the only live thing in a scarred country,

a Johnson among the Broussards,

standing on my pedals, pumping—

do you know what that’s like, only eleven

and able to tear a hole in the sky?

River Song

I remember riding into Memphis

on a corrugated bridge,

a grille of metal and air slung out

over brown water—nothing

between us and the Mississippi

but a thousand holes.

Sister leaning on my shoulder,

brother sleeping in my lap,

sprawled in the backseat

in the breathing dark, beyond

the red arc of his cigarette.

He drove us over that glittering bridge,

that rush of lights in the dark.

Not quite crying,

homesick at the sight of home,

I held the children up

away from the yawning water.

Marilyn A. Johnson has published poetry in FIELD and other literary magazines. She lives in New York.

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