Donna Johnson


Donna Johnson's Sample Work

Selected Poems

Yellow is the Color Of West TexasDonna Johnson Selvage

Grandma claimed it was the color for whores.
The closest city to her town they named Amarillo,
perhaps for the clouds of Monarchs, high
on milkweed, or for homesteader’s cloth,
dyed with the boiled hulls of butternut.
Each spring, coneflowers line
the interstate. Lone patches of green
sprout along irrigation pipes and ditches,
under heifer slosh from windmill barrels.
No roses bloom of their own accord,
yellow, or of any other kind.
Our family loads into the El Camino,
heads down to Palo Duro canyon.
Grandad does not bother brushing
ocher-colored grit from ragged cracks
in aqua vinyl seats and dash. A sign greets:
Here, they sell 64-ounce Pepsi colas;
landscape is severe relief.
To ravage such a canyon,
even God must tire of level plain—
to split the earth this deep
for sulfur water, for gypsum.

I want to run away from home
like the famous Chinese chef
whose whereabouts foodies pursue relentlessly
on the Internet
He takes his wife with him
two framed photos of cooking awards
which he nails to the walls of the new restaurant
He must not own a house
If he did he could not move so stealthily
leaving only speculation for months
until someone finds him making
spicy cumin-scented whole fish in Richmond
He must not have children
Children do not like to be moved
their feet like stumps their fingers like roots
Maybe they are more like the original peoples
smell their ancestors in the dirt

And the very young protest
in the way that boxes do becoming
unwieldy heavy
You must sling them around your waist
balance them on a hip and be prepared
to drag so many things along with them
bottles   nipples   thermometers   cradles
that can’t be stacked like packages
of bean curd or noodles   
spices labeled with their country of origin
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