2022 Issue  >  Poetry  >  Autumn

Abstract 2.jpg
Artwork by
Jesse Lee Kercheval

Autumn

Stephanie Johnson

The corn stretches for the sky, 

unfurling tight, white fists, 

thousands of knuckles flapping into flossy flags,

roots ripping through the ground to march for acres,

cobs like fingers scraping our stomachs,

as we celebrate with them their harvest, 

their yearning.

 

Mother smiles so wide,

we mistake the cicadas’ hymns for the earth herself 

humming.

 

The rain falls and is swallowed by the dirt,

resurrecting the worms, 

their bodies writhing,

like damp flames of pink fire.

 

Bleeding hearts bloom and fall from baskets in the backyard, 

and spiders spin their webs,

between the daisies in the wildflower beds 

that feel like meadows thick with freedom - 

 

There is no one left to down the drying fronds, 

and we crawl on hands and knees,

like children,

carving tunnels through the grass, 

there are bugs in our hair

as we chew alfalfa flowers.  

 

We harvest the dandelions, 

and string them like popcorn garlands, 

the bees are delightfully fuzzy, 

they know the smell of our skin, 

and do not sting us when we dip our lips into the honeycombs, 

sucking them clean like chicken bones.

 

A blood moon rises at the end of October,

and all of us on earth crescendo, 

our spines arching like willow branches in the titian glow–

 

We don’t know how long the sun will stay down, 

but the fire is bright, 

and the Goddess loves us more than the Shepherd, 

because we love insurmountably, 

without measure.

 

We caress the water, 

the pond weighing heavily upon the breast of the yard– 

 

We do not bother with rowboats,

and we have nothing to hide,

our naked bodies are mutually enamored, 

our backs embraced by the shadows,

our chests falling against the palms of the soil:

 

We grow our roots into the bellows of the earth, 

and we know,

with a beautiful certainty 

that our bellies will grow soft, 

like moss. 

Our bones

will be scattered, 

devoured. 

Our spirits will leave. 

Our bodies will stay, 

and it is not a tragedy.

Stephanie Johnson is from the tiny town of Unity, Wisconsin. She was raised on a farm, and spent most days in awe of the nature around her with her grandma, Marilyn Brehm, who taught her to love turning words into stories: she is forever grateful.

 Jesse Lee Kercheval is a writer, translator, and graphic artist. Her recent books include the short story collection Underground Women and  La crisis es el cuerpo, a bilingual edition of her poetry, translated by Ezequiel Zaidenwerg, published in Argentina by Editorial Bajo la luna. Her recent graphic narratives, comics and art have appeared in Waxwing, The Quarantine Public Library, On the Seawall, Sweet Lit, and New Letters.