Poetry Sunday: “Clea’s Side of the Story,” by Roxane Beth Johnson

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 SextonWallace 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.

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