Published in Issue 63.1: Winter 2024
We are contained in rooms leaking with absence. New recruits
to the cult of death,
we dress differently, sheathed in black armor. The house stirs.
We pace the interior.
The restless sleep of the house keeps us up at night shifting
its wood shingles,
never comfortable, it moves to let street light in before
swaying its blinds shut.
We are somnambulists stalking the dusty chambers. Our crying
annoying and loud
like the high-pitched bubbles that escape from lobsters
dunked in boiling pots.
When the house isn’t looking, windows dream themselves into trees.
Their panes curl
like leaves toward the sun. The bathroom remembers itself into ocean—
tides overflow the toilet.
Abandoned, the sink floods until tiny, invisible fish flop
on the slick tile floor.
In the kitchen, tinfoil rises into ghosts, dish towels blow across the room.
Gusty terrors stop me
from brushing my hair. Real ghosts, the green ghosts that linger
on the other sides of walls,
take off their slippers before they enter from the garden. In every room,
a foreign place.
L. A. Johnson is from California. She is the author of the chapbook Little Climates (Bull City Press, 2017). She is currently a Mellon Humanities and University of the Future postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California. The winner of the Mississippi Review Poetry Prize, the Greensboro Review Poetry Prize, the Arts & Letters Rumi Poetry Prize, her poems appear in American Poetry Review, Poetry Magazine, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere.