She was tired of ash.
Of the filthiness of her neck.
This was her mistake--
to regard herself.
The barrel was filled with potatoes
for the following day's meal.
She picked one up and scrubbed it,
its knobbed head callous as a priest's.
She scrubbed her fingers. Ragged nails,
pale moons and the singe beneath.
A mouse ran across the window,
its back stark in moonlight.
She took an ember in her skirt
and lit the fatwood.
When the muslin tablecloth went up,
she stepped into her molten slippers
and let the yellow finery of her hair
engulf the village.
The Brief Occasion of My Father's Happiness
Occurred somewhere between Texarkana
And Wichita Falls. Back home, the bermuda grass
Was being mowed by a twelve year old boy;
The new pumps my mother had bought
Were still hidden in the bedroom closet
And the bill lay in the mailbox, unopened.
At the Howard Johnson's we swam through
The lights of a heated swimming pool.
For breakfast we ate powdered donuts, five to a bed.
The Impala had not yet overheated, my father's
Father had not yet teetered on the step stool to take
The tawny port from the highest shelf.
While we slept in the back seat, my mother
Followed the shadow of a single cloud as it turned
A portion of wheat field gold to brown.
Donna Johnson has studied with several poets in the Boston area, including Lucie Brock-Broido and HenriCole. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia and has an M.A. in Psychology from the University of Connecticut. She recentlywon the University of Nevada's annual Black Rock Press Broadside Competition and has poems forthcoming in the Green Mountain Review. She livesin Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters and works as a programmer.