“Somebody told me we got LA”

From Amaud Jamaul Johnson's Imperial Liquor

(I’m not) I don’t want my whole
life grieving, no gleaming, nothing
fallen, (I’m not) that city. But what’s
Atlantis without the water, Pompeii
(I’m not) save those bodies, startled,
huddling. I’m not ruined. (But) Isn’t
this what’s inherent (I can’t), the living
and not knowing. (I’m not) Then
some nights I’m frozen. I couldn’t figure
out how to bring anyone (I won’t)
with me, (I) and I can’t convince
the people around me to return. (But)
Return to what, to whom? Any MLK,
(I’m not) there’s your share of disaster.
One west coast stretching out another.
This tree I started, it’s just a few
states, or branches, into the Atlantic,
which is another form of blackness.


From Imperial Liquor. Used with the permission of the publisher, University of Pittsburgh Press. © 2020 Amaud Jamaul Johnson. All rights reserved.

Amaud Jamaul Johnson
Amaud Jamaul Johnson
A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, Amaud Jamaul Johnson is a winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Dorset Prize, and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the MacDowell Colony, and Cave Canem. Born and raised in Compton, California, he is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing.

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