Sara Eliza Johnson reads “The Living”


Hi my name is Sarah Eliza Johnson and
I’m going to read a poem called “The Living” from the book Butcher’s Tree by Feng Sun Chen I was browsing the books AWP and when I came across this poem
just sort of flipping through the book it just blindsided me and it kind of
introduced me to a new author that I’d never heard of before and that was a
really exciting moment the living the trees outside st. Mary’s
are queued up like dried arteries though it is the heart of March black ice on
the ground the Midwest has the sort of personality that makes me worship cold
blank plains like the face of someone I want love from basic needs tied up in a
cloth sack everything in it hard and dry and clean cleanliness is mistaken for
liveliness relief for affection how do I get from here to there what can I eat
there will someone be there my true face is that of a potato
I have many eyes but see nothing I’m afraid of the dark and bury myself in my
fears that is what the spring invites the first cardinal today filled up the
net of branches by the house yes its small body filled up the whole net the
changing temperature makes me porous something else that is small and black
perches on an ice black and caw caw caws cardinals leak from the body I’m afraid
too much sight can kill me there is no such thing as inner space
I am completely full maybe there are a few pockets between my kidneys or the
lobes in my upper midsection but it’s tight too much seeing would rip
something it happens all the time soon I think I must deflate I won’t get
there in time why does everything look the same am i looking at a map or a tree
or the hand of a dying man don’t go don’t go I drink with my eyes when I try
to explain anything some part of something somebody dies

12 thoughts on “Sara Eliza Johnson reads “The Living”

  1. "I'm afraid of the dark and bury myself in my fears." … Whew. I'm glad I was sitting down for this.— Paige

  2. “Cleanliness is mistaken for liveliness. Relief for affection.” There is something so hard hitting about these lines. It is easy to believe some emotion translates to another emotion because we often are not encouraged to reflect enough on what we are feeling. Also it is easier on the heart to believe what one wants to see and perhaps hide from the truth of tangled webs we weave ourselves. This poem really reinforced a lot of what I believe to be true. And that’s why I love poetry.

  3. It's true. Too much seeing does rip something. I have poems on my blog, Susurrus Waking.

  4. Speaking as a Minnesotan…yeah that's basically what the Midwest is like…Feng Sun Chen GETS it!

  5. I would love to see some more classic poems on this channel! Like Auden, Browning, Frost, Dickens, Tennyson, etc. If the mission of this channel is to bring poetry to a wider audience, I'd hope it wouldn't just be contemporary poetry.

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