Clea’s Side of the Story
Lord says make me an altar. My body is of a temple. Sweat cools
on my skin like daylight on a wall it ebbs. Work then rest.
Everyone in the fields all day. Doubt like Thomas it all continues
Yet occurring. Amen, amen. An orange is a world of sweetness
sliced. I am a hidden clearing for dancing, spirit is a dove through
trees flying. Sometimes I lay the seed, other times I stalk the
birds. I am burned leaves crumbling in a fire of red it rushes. Amen,
amen. Lord says, don’t be afraid of the body killed by hand but
watch the price of your soul. At night, I have no mind left to
dream. There is no treasure place to hide but the body. Lord says
make an altar. I tried it once with twigs. Everything is yet gone
or stolen. I memorize a flight of crows. Let me think of folded
hands. My body is of a temple. I put this there.
First published in Black Arts Quarterly. From Black Crow Dress (Alice James Press 2013), © 2013. Reprinted with permission of Alice James Books.
Roxane Beth Johnson is the author of Jubilee (2006), chosen by Philip Levine for the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry from Anhinga Press, and Black Crow Dress (Alice James Books 2013), a finalist for the 2013 Northern California Book Award. Johnson has said that her early literary influences were the Bible and church hymns; later influences include the poets Anne Sexton, Wallace Stevens, and Rainer Maria Rilke. Johnson has won an AWP Prize in Poetry and a Pushcart Prize. She has received scholarships/fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Cave Canem, The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and San Francisco Arts Commission, and her work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Callaloo, the Georgia Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere.