Tumi Johnson

Your girlfriend spells out albumen.

But I would put out

                              maw. Vulpine.

                The sexiest game, and she comes up

with the tools of her trade. I lift a foot to the inside

of my knee. It is July and I need to cool off.

You drink iced tea, and line up

your      game      tiles.

She looks up at me, a pretty brunette,

and says with a laugh—He always wins.

Then beat him, I say. You smile,

or wince. It looks the same on you.




Tumi Johnson

I was called greedy

                    when they saw my wingspan.

                        Antinomian. I stretched out

wide arms and rose for flight. I craned my neck.

I took my fill. They called me the devil.

                             But they were absent at the prelude.

I had to train myself to give up this weight.

I vomited before predators came, to be sharper for the fight, lighter for the flight.

I had to show that this sleeve of fear was disposable. I needed nothing

physical, no burdens, no thing. They thought me vulgar

when I unzipped my dress and dove into dance.

But they did not know me at the start, when

I was something more inchoate, those

moments my head bent to a gaze,

the shame at my bill’s curve.

Now my mouth is a

blade. I need no

pretty songs

when I

fill the sky.

Tumi Johnson was raised in Ibadan, Nigeria and Nashville, Tennessee. She is a physician, dancer and poet, and has been published in Number One, Radically Shifted, with a forthcoming publication in the Annals of Internal Medicine. She currently lives in Brooklyn.

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