I’m thrilled to announce the first publication of one of my poems, Black Picket Fence, which appears in Persephone’s Daughters, Issue Five, Fall 2018. Their About page describes the online publication as ‘a lit magazine dedicated to empowering women who have experienced various forms of abuse and degradation.’

In writing Black Picket Fence, my goal was to revisit an episode from my early twenties, a stark memory of good intentions gone — nowhere — and the shame I experienced when faced with my sheer inability to comprehend how to react when confronted with the damaging effects of domestic violence. Now that I’m older, I recognize how very young I was and how unprepared I was – how unprepared most people might have been – in my situation. I don’t know what happened to this family. This memory has remained, a sad, shameful memory, over the years. I wish I’d done more. I wish I’d known then what to do. The truth is, I felt overwhelmed and powerless and I am so very sorry for my helplessness during this family’s time of need.

Here is the link to Black Picket Fence.

Thank you.

Julie Allyn Johnson

Who was I then?
I don’t think
I’ll ever really know
or understand
the what
or why
or how could I?

This I know: They will never grasp the sadness
and loss
and regret
I feel in my bones
every. single. day.

Wasted years, wasted youth.

Ah, but mine is not a unique story to tell
but it is just that – mine
and no one can convince me otherwise,
much as I wish it simply were not so.

For us…

Though isolated and alone,
six daughters created
their own adventures:

Dredge ditches to explore
logs to climb, hop and traverse
quirky clubs to govern
silliness to be had
pools to swim
bikes to ride.

But they also witnessed dysfunction.
Drinking and arguments
self-centered behavior
loneliness
betrayal
isolation
occasions of violence.
The demeaning of selves.

Their young minds
could not possibly understand
the hardships of their stewards.
They saw only the injustices
perpetuated against them.
A hard thing to shake off – that.
Necessary, though. They see that now:
A duty requiring constant vigilance.

They carried with them the lessons
taught perhaps by design,
others via despair.

A mother who failed to hold and nurture her children
though her love be true.
Other pressing needs consumed her,
mindless of the continuum she unleashed
in tandem with the cold hardness
of what life had dealt her.

She did what she could.

Their human hearts
craved the joyful contentment
of family love and acceptance.

Straw hats and
matching dresses at Easter.
Season pool passes.
Colorful quilts – dozens of them.
Dr. Seuss delivered each month.
Pink cupcakes with candy hearts:
kindergarten visits.

Pillars of the Earth.

She did what she could.

Undermining her own desires
time and again
always alone, uphill battles
against the bottle, work and everyone else,
always others.

When, then, for you?

With the mellowing of age, true pleasures found.
Booze finally lost its allure.
Some tea, mummy? his gentle refrain.
Shared toast with jam on winter mornings,
watching the birds and those clever squirrels.
Travels together, a great bonding.
Gratitudes, delayed and bittersweet
but heartfelt nonetheless.

Disappointments and hurts: not quite ever undone.
Hearts nearly broken at times continue to pump
their life-giving nourishments.
We are human, after all.
And so, there IS love.