As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Maisha Z. Johnson-Poetry

remember tonight

remember tonight,
something you haven’t in a while:
that time in ninth grade ,
when you broke up with kenneth meyer,
and he yelled dyke! at you from the car
as his mother drove away.
you didn’t understand then,
but you get it now. it’s the way your
eyes follow a woman’s walk, the
way your gaze answers some silent
call from hips like the ones resting
on your couch now.

remember tonight,
the elegance of the woman sitting
in your living room. she has a striking
allure, the woman on your couch,
so it’s only natural that you are hiding
in the bathroom. turn on the faucet, knowing
you’ve already been hiding too long.
if the rest of this night follows the path
set by your dancing, tonight
will be your first night
making love, or something like it,
to a woman.

remember tonight,
with relief, that you shaved your legs
this morning, as you imagine the woman
stroking your bare thigh. then, that you gave up
before you finished, shaved your whole left leg,
but only your right ankle
before you decided to wear long pants.

tonight, remember this:
if she touches your thigh, let it be your
left one. as you tie your hair up with a band,
wonder if the woman can tell by looking at you
that every orgasm you’ve ever had
has been an over-gasped lie.
maybe you’ve had enough practice to fool her, too.
open the bathroom door to see her sitting
across from you, waiting, watching.
her eyes look black as her hair, beneath silver bangs.
eyes you can’t keep secrets from.
sitting beside her now, you’re not as sure
as you should be.

remember tonight,
your time at school, how they treated girls like you—
now, you can say girls like us.
your life is not like this woman’s, choices made simply.
you can’t toss away your past as easily
as her thin white shirt, or put your cold hand
on a stranger’s chin and turn her face to see you nude.
the woman’s chest rests under more shadows
than light, but you can see she has just one breast.
if you didn’t know any better, you would
think it was her heart, that flesh hung outside
of her body like a flag, proof that she’s not all hollow
on the inside. on the opposite side of her chest
is a labyrinth of hardened skin.
no promises for peace of mind
when you reach the center.
she asks if you’ve ever been with a woman
with one breast before, and you pause, breathing
deeply, as though it’s something you have to try to

remember, tonight,
before you tell her no.
of course, you’ve never been with a woman
with two breasts either, and you might think
it’d be easier to manage one breast
than two. you would be wrong.
put one hand over her full breast.
terrified of what your fingers might say
to the other side, let your tongue do the talking.
you never thought she’d taste like this.
like the smoldering ash marking where the fire has burned.

remember tonight,
the stories that sliced your scars,
and know she’s no different than the rest of us.
agreed to let her scars stay
as long as they gave her strength.

remember tonight,
what you sacrificed to get here.
then leave that to yesterday
and remember tonight.

Maisha Johnson HeadShotMaisha Z. Johnson is a Bay area-based queer writer and activist of Trinidadian descent. She has an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University. She spends her days working at Community United Against Violence (CUAV), developing transformative approaches with LGBTQ folks to heal from and end violence. She spends her nights lifting up silenced voices on the page, and exploring the relationship between writing and social change, which she chronicles on her blog, Inkblot. Maisha has been a featured reader at literary events and social justice rallies throughout the Bay Area, and she has work published or forthcoming in journals including Eleven Eleven, Blackberry: A Magazine, and aaduna.

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