Newsletter Poetry

A combustion of words

A poem, an offering

This delightful poem speaks of combustion, our planetary theme for August.


Sara Eliza Johnson

If a human body has two-hundred-and-six bones
and thirty trillion cells, and each cell
has one hundred trillion atoms, if the spine
has thirty-three vertebrae—

if each atom

has a shadow—then the lilacs across the yard
are nebulae beginning to star.
If the fruit flies that settle on the orange
on the table rise
like the photons

from a bomb fire miles away,

my thoughts at the moment of explosion
are nails suspended
in a jar of honey.

I peel the orange

for you, spread the honey on your toast.
When our skin touches
our atoms touch, their shadows
merging into a shadow galaxy.
And if echoes are shadows
of sounds, if each hexagonal cell in the body
is a dark pool of jelly,
if within each cell
drones another cell—

The moment the bomb explodes

the man’s spine bends like its shadow
across the road.
The moment he loses his hearing
I think you are calling me
from across the house
because my ears start to ring.
From the kitchen window

I see the lilacs crackling like static

as if erasing, teleporting,
thousands of bees rising from the blossoms:
tiny flames in the sun.
I lick the knife
and the honey pierces my tongue:

a nail made of light.

My body is wrapped in honey. When I step outside

I become fire.