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Against the Jagged Grain

—Stacey Johnson

Against the Jagged Grain

The magician’s hand at the cliff’s edge, a yellow chick suspended,

splayed arms twirl—faster. The key was carrying the watcher’s eyes to

the place where the magic wasn’t. Seven years on a planet to spin me,

looking as I watch for the rules of this place. One is to hold up the

space and then turn. If the quiet collapses, the turn is no good.

Without the prestige there can be no revelation, no sawed woman

returned from halves to whole, no uncut rope, no rabbit comes back,

the chick no longer yellow but whole and feathered, breathing.

What is gone here is something more. I wanted it to show me the

open jaw into the dragon, stank breath wide to listen for my name in

its throat how it roared where the fire begins in the black hole of a

mouth. Whose mouth. What fire.

Say it’s a last day. Say the seagull knows. Say this explains that pointed

look where it stops just now on this eye-level post. The urgent

horizon, its clouds the morning fuzz of tongue frayed toward song.

Bodies inflected against tide. To be washed, quiet instrument waiting.

If the dead watch, let someone play me now. That I may praise it, too.


STACEY C. JOHNSON writes and teaches in San Diego County. She is a graduate of the MFA program at San Diego State University and creator of The Unknowing Project. Her work appears in Oyster River Pages, Pacific Review, and Fiction International, as well as various other publications. Her poetry chapbook Flight Songs is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (February 2024). You can find her at

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