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Day 30: The Lone Palm by Jenny Johnson

Queer Poem-a-Day is a program from the Adult Services Department at the Library and may include adult language.

The Lone Palm

by Jenny Johnson

Years ago, I had a dream
in which my students taunted me,
We know who you like.
And though I had feared
they would say, Girls.
They sang back,
Ghosts. Ghosts.
We know how you feel
about Ghosts.

When one of my spirits
took me out for fun,
I wanted to change together
into all that was liminal.
My chin lifting
out of a cave of shoulders
as if I’d beheld the horizon line
dedicated to slipping away,
a passaggio,
where we might zither
as cicadas do
abandoning our exoskeletons
in exchange for
the shapes of sounds.

You were hardly there.
I was mostly alone.
The way my shirt drifted up
the closer I leaned-in,
exposing the first few rungs
of my spine, showing
the solid band of my briefs,
the sleight shifting
of absence and material
made my trunk real.
Outside, a lone palm
on the sidewalk
lifted in the breeze,
inside the walls
were all mirrors.

Copyright © 2019 by Jenny Johnson. Used with the permission of the author. Originally published in the Harvard Review (2019.)

About the Author

Author headshotJenny Johnson is the author of In Full Velvet (Sarabande Books, 2017). Her honors include a Whiting Award, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and a NEA Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in The New York Times, New England Review, Waxwing, and elsewhere. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at West Virginia University, and she is on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop, Pacific Lutheran University’s low-residency MFA program. She lives in Pittsburgh. For more:


Queer Poem a Day graphic

2021 Queer Poem a Day

Queer Poem-a-Day is directed by poet and teacher Lisa Hiton and Dylan Zavagno, Adult Services Coordinator at the Deerfield Public Library. Music for this second year of our series is the first movement, Schéhérazade, from Masques, Op. 34, by Karol Szymanowski, performed by pianist Daniel Baer. Queer Poem-a-Day is supported by generous donations from the Friends of the Deerfield Public Library and the Deerfield Fine Arts Commission.

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