Then a Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars

A Bad Spell : Gloss 1

I welcome you. Go for a walk in the field. In the woods. Meadow. Desert. Street. Bring a roasted chicken dinner. Share it. All night there are sighs amongst us, a caress. Fingers moving. Skin touches, enters skin. Fish are caught. Gutted. Wrapped in aluminum foil, sprinkled with lemon, a little butter, salt. Put into ready coals. The birthed take a first deep breath. Our stresses leave. We fold and unfold napkins. Our hearts, too. We unfold these. Blood seeps through panties and drips down legs. Rocks pool from our mouths. Our breasts are milking. We stand. Together. I welcome you. Lay down. Rest. Gather what you need to know. Whisper then hum and sing and watch the kids run around, they laugh playing Star Wars. We will not end racism. Or heartbreak. We will not bring back the dead. We will not wrest the pain from ourselves. Not to mention from each other. All these wolves howling, they are being hunted. There are always these little things we miss. Ha. How the arm raises. How the head tilts down. The gentle sway. Lay your arm across my chest. Leave it there to rise and fall. I welcome you. See the red deer. The violently red deer. Hold her tongue in your hand. In your mouth. Take a sip of water. Let your tongues swirl. Let your drink be hers. Breathe blood and dirt and shit and air. And hold the newborn. Hold her. She is us. I welcome you. And when someone else is holding the newborn, get drunk. Get fully loaded. I do sometimes. Not so much any more. Count 14,000 steps. One day. Rest. Sleep 12 hours. I do. Have. Well, have done. Not so much any more. Count 14,000 ticks. The sound first then the bloodsucking creatures. Do they suck blood? One day. I want you to bite my shoulder. Again. Kiss the back of my neck. Again. I want to come with you. Again. On your chest. My arm lays still. Someone I love said, “at least we get to live it all.” I welcome you. Take up your arms. TAKE UP YOUR ARMS. Leave the guns on the ground. Fight not with strength but with grief. Your curled up, crawling, kneeling grief. Count 14,000 steps and ticks (the sound) and 14,000 killed. Again. I welcome you. Howl with the hunted wolves, sing with nothing you remember, but remember the boy the woman the man and child and girl. The missing and murdered, when none of them found you in crawling pain. Remember? They thought you were not real. They find you there now or rather it finds you—the ground—holds you. And you look at the sky. You lay back. You see stars that are eyes that are souls and you see your own soul up there and your arms are up and they will never be down again. Again. The red deer jaunts away. The newborn. At least she gets to live it all. I hope someone gathers up the quilts. Disrupts the meticulous Ojibwe floral pattern. Piles a bunch of them in a jumble. Lays down in them. Drools on them. Lifts themselves up into a heavy type of lighting; thick, thick sleep.


About the Author

Originally from Alaska, Emily Johnson is an artist of Yup’ik descent, who has been making body-based work since 1998. She is a Bessie Award-winning choreographer, 2016 Guggenheim Fellow, and recipient of the 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award. Her written work has been published in Dance Research Journal and Movement Research Journal, and has been commissioned by SFMOMA and Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.