Kimberly Johnson

June 24, 2016 Johnson Kimberly



Every beauty barbed, from the tiniest mites

Beading the Spanish

Moss in a drapery of bites


To these dark lawns aquiver with itches.

The night buzzes

And pops like a power surge


Through a fluorescent tube. Unmoving

I listen, nightlong

Your body a dear distance


Of sighs beside me. I have married

This predation,

Plighted my troth to its scurry


And sting. I wear like a ring the horizon’s

Compass of un-

Familiars: cormorant,


Hygrometer, whelk, frangipani.

I mouth each strange

Name as a succulent


Vow to love what I will never tame.

Wake, Sweet, and see

Florida tossing my forever bouquet:


In the hurricane blow from the gulf coast

The alligator flag

Fans its bracts, the ghostpalm ghosts.

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.”