Tension | Susan Johnson

Tension | Susan Johnson

A raccoon wrestles a garbage can to the ground.
You feel it in your arms, a match that matches
the pull of birds smashing their heads against glass.
Our biggest rivals are those that return our stare
reflected in the pane. A tension we need, like tennis

players need their opponent across the net. The stage
admits only one at a time. I tell you she had the best
daylilies in town. You climb two mountains and neither
have a view. Has a view. Still you hook up the reins
like you’re really getting somewhere, putting all

your bananas on the table. Or bandanas. The flight
is real though the runway imaginary. Get to Friday
will you, whispers the man behind you in line.
It behooves you to say behoove, to figure out why
being afraid makes people snarky but not afraid

of being snarky. Black beans stain your lips purple.
Black licorice dyes your tongue green. In the coop,
you shift each warm breast of chicken off eggs
to shoplift the eggs. One hen wants your thumb
like you want her unhatched young. Brace for

the next explosion. When you’re afraid of something
you look for something that will scare you more.
How fast your childhood disappeared that winter
they left you alone. Bitter coffee brings you home
where your shoes can’t wait to walk out the door.


Susan Johnson received her MFA and PhD from the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she currently teaches writing. Poems of hers have recently appeared in The Kerf, Hawaii Pacific Review, Freshwater, Pinyon, Oyez Review and North American Review. She lives in South Hadley MA..