From Little Climates
By L. A. Johnson:
I never had quiet times in the kitchen
making an icebox cake.
I never inspected the back of the box,
folded wafers up with cream.
In the morning, you fix whatever
needs fixing. You make eggs
with toast. And in the afternoon, I walk
out far past the end of the acre.
Only then do the strays come
to the porch, looking for a dish of milk,
a can of fish left open. No arguing
or crying can be heard nearby.
In the evening, the walls confine
the regular angers. We listen
to the kettle sing on the stove
that nobody bothers to stop.
In the freezer, always, only the notion
of an icebox cake—its layers
softening to be like the real thing.
The icing, milk and smooth.
Stranger, if only things had been
a little different, I could be
old-fashioned in my happiness,
blushing and easy to love.
Today the six of us perform a funeral for a home—
we wreathe the doorway with lilies, carry
our possessions above our heads like caskets.
We scatter the enviable parts of our lives
across the lawn: a radio, ceramic bowls, a sweater
that never fit. Strangers stop by to look
at all our things, each one dressed in black.
Then with hammers, we begin the destruction.
Afternoon sun exposes the fine particles
of wool and fiberglass that kept us warm.
Behind the medicine cabinet, we find razor blades
rusted in a wall-hollow. In the vacant lot next door,
a ravine appears that no stray dog will cross.
We know in some towns, this demolition is modest
or even ordinary. A bulldozer loiters elsewhere.
In a future, this house will become honeycomb
and bees will make clear honey out of all our mistakes.
“Epistemology” previously appeared in the Antioch Review and “Split-Level” previously appeared in the Indiana Review. Both peoms are from the collection Little Climates (Bull City Press, 2017; copyright L. A. Johnson) and appear here today with permission from the poet.
Little Climates: The lyric poems of Little Climates address the divisions between the self and the world, the self and the lover, and self with the self. In her debut collection, L. A. Johnson examines of the disparate spaces humans occupy in relationships: together and separately, alone and as unit. Each partner’s past, how they’ve changed, how they dream of the present—these are the little climates.
L. A. Johnson is the author of the chapbook Little Climates (Bull City Press). She received her MFA from Columbia University and is currently pursuing her PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California, where she is a Provost’s Fellow. She’s received scholarships and fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, The Iowa Review, Narrative Magazine, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.
Guest Editor’s Note: I first heard L. A. Johnson’s poems at a reading the poet gave in Los Angeles. When I read Little Climates a few weeks later, I realized that her imagery is so acute and vivid that it had stayed with me. Johnson is an expert at creating poignant landscapes and visceral environments. At times, they are intensely familiar: “the notion/of an icebox cake—it’s layers/softening to be like the real thing,” but the poet also deftly moves in directions the reader might never have imagined; “In the evening, / the walls confine the regular angers.” The detailed, sensory world the poet creates builds into unforgettable landscapes that stay with the reader long after the pages of Little Climates have been closed.
Want to read more by and about L. A. Johnson?
L. A. Johnson’s Official Website
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Read more poems via At Length
Read more poems via The Account
A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:
After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. Today and in the coming weeks, please help me welcome a series of guest editors to the newest incarnation of the Saturday Poetry Series.
Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB