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, renaissance scholar, translator of ancient Greek and Latin, and prize-winning poet, exegetes the syntactical strategies and etymology of William Butler Yeats’ “Politics” and Emily Dickinson’s #124 (“Safe in their Alabaster Chambers”) in her brilliant essay, “Reading and Writing Outside Thebes: In Praise of Syntax .” “Syntax, denoting the order and arrangement of words,” Johnson notes,  “is derived from the Greek prefix συν-, meaning “together,” and τάσσω, which broadly indicates the act of arranging (think “taxidermy”: an arrangement of skin; or “taxonomy”: an arrangement of objects by name) but chiefly and specifically denotes the drawing up of troops into a battle array, or the mustering of military forces into strategic arrangement.”  In her incisive analysis of Yeats’ and Dickinson’s  syntactical mustering of words and phrases in “Politics” and “124,” Johnson reveals the verbal genius behind the word placement in these two poems and the critical role word order plays in succeeding to stage meaning, tone, and irony in their verbal presentation and “maneuvers.”