Kimberly Johnson

A Nocturnal Upon Saint Charles Yeager’s Day
July 21, 2011 Johnson Kimberly

A Nocturnal Upon Saint Charles Yeager’s Day


Here comes that sonic boom
thumping at the chest like a kickdrum
the first and final beat of a tune called
Too Late. Ever too late the event
reveals its narrative to the sense
ever too slow on the uptake,
ever life hurtles heartbreak to heartbreak
while I rattle around in its mach-cone
trying to work out the ever-aftermath.


To the palm that rests atop the trembling
diaphragm, not to calm but to confirm
the body’s record, all this shock and roar
is a comfort. After such rough cleavings—
molecule from molecule, the sound shorn
back from the air and stacked upon itself—
there should be noise. There should be a bombblast
bellknocking bonejar of noise, a jolt
to all wavelengths, a tremor through the pavement
tripping car-alarms and dog-howls to the proof
that something happened.


Something happened. Something wider than the sky
got broken, something faster than a word
arrowed into it. That damned and blessed sonic boom
will roll on past me down the road, drumming up
the next dirge by the time I know to mourn
whatever it was.

Kimberly Johnson is the author of four poetry collections, including most recently Fatal (Persea
Books, 2022), written largely in response to the terminal diagnosis of her late spouse, the poet
Jay Hopler. Her translation of Virgil’s Georgics, which includes the earliest narration of the now-
familiar story of Orpheus and Eurydice, was published by Penguin Classics in 2009. Recipient
of fellowships and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, and the Utah Arts
Council, Johnson has recent work in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series and in
The Best American Poetry 2020.