“Late Bloom” is an excerpt from In Full Velvet, a new collection of poems by Jenny Johnson (poetry, ’11), released on February 17th from Sarabande Books:
The name of the spotted apple
on the leafy floor in the woods
outside the white-walled bedroom
where the FM stereo was always
tuned to the same country
station my girl crush loved
was gall, name for an outgrowth,
a shell withering under leaf rot
near a spot where the surprise lilies
might remember, might
forget to bloom. Touch a weevil
and it will fall, legs and antennae tucked.
Blink and the artic fox becomes snow.
The gecko, toes spread wide
on a tree trunk, passes for lichen.
Of all the ways a creature can conceal itself,
I must have relied on denial.
There were the Confederate bumper stickers,
pressures from seniors to tail gate,
the spindly legs of a freshman
scissoring out of a trash can,
how just the smell of Old Spice
could make my muscles contract
like a moth, wings folded
the color of a dead leaf in October.
So that she might hear her favorite song
my voice would drop, and if the DJ answered
I would be Tim, Charlie, Luke, Jason
every name but my own.
Truer than gold.
Wasn’t I the stripe in a tiger’s eye?
The dapple in the flanks of an Appaloosa?
In daylight, how could I possibly explain:
A heart hunting after a body?
… purchase a copy of In Full Velvet here.
This poem originally appeared in Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, edited by TC Tolbert and Trace Peterson.