Jenny Johnson, In Full Velvet (2017)

“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:




Late Bloom

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.

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