“Virginia Slim”

A Poem by Taylor Johnson

December 18, 2020  By Taylor Johnson

Young buck tapping
its velvet against the
bathroom window in
the morning. The land
leaning in the pines,
the well, cattails,
muscadines, hot metal
in the shed, chicory on
the stove at twilight. In
the orange morning I
rose w/ my grandfather,
w/ the larger animals
of our imagination, and
warmed the truck to go
to the water. On the
way I laid down in the
truck bed and caught a
rabbit barely in the
grasp of a hawk. What
did I know about being
hunted? I knew
everything. The meek
don’t inherit shit— I
stuffed my mouth with
pine needles and spit, bled
and spit, at the
root, and look where it’s
got me— landless. If
the water was a myth, then
I went in looking
for my dog only to find
my grandmother’s
armchair. I rode it as I
would any wet story—
to deeper blue. Listen:
by lamplight my
grandfather would lead
me to the edge of the
woods— this is yours
then he would kill the
light. If I told you he
flew back to his house,
what are you supposed
to believe; it was just
me and my green hope
pressing through the
black. How else am I
supposed to enter the
world if I’d already left
once: as myth: not set
apart: but as a small
shelled thing: low:
toiling in the dirt: lifting
every bit of black to



Excerpted from Inheritance by Taylor Johnson, which will be published by Alice James Books in November 2020. Used with permission from the author and publisher.

Taylor Johnson
Taylor Johnson
Taylor Johnson is proud of being from Washington, DC. They've received fellowships and scholarships from CALLALOO, Cave Canem, Lambda Literary, VONA, Tin House, the Vermont Studio Center, Yaddo, the Conversation Literary Festival, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers' Conference, among others. In 2017, Taylor received the Larry Neal Writers' Award from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Their poems appear in The Baffler, Indiana Review, Scalawag, and the Paris Review, among other journals and literary magazines. Their first book, Inheritance, will be published November 2020 with Alice James Books. Taylor currently lives in southern Louisiana where they listen. Find them online at taylorjohnsonpoems.com.

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