Sarah Johnson



My parents were years apart, my father
eleven years older. Vaporous sex over two years
led to me; my mother labored for hours
and I ripped her. Three children later,
she had postpartum depression and lay for hours
in her dark bedroom. In the early morning,
I came to her and rubbed her feet. I have heard there is a hurricane
on Saturn—its scarlet swirled clouds are a mystery
to scientists. Saturn has little water, yet its winds
still drive this permanent force. One red sunrise,
I stood beside her. Curtains closed, the room swelled
with deep salmon light and her dull marbled eyes. I rubbed her
back that morning; while she tried to sleep away the sunrise,
I stared at my father, back askew. His shoulders ebbed
in sharp angles, thin black hair violently rising
from his pillow; his depression lasted all year.
When my fingers grew sore, my mother turned to me, amber
hair matted to her face, coiled in damp circles.



Spoon in hand,
my grandma reached
into her cabinet and grabbed
a box of baking soda. Back
turned, she stuffed a spoonful
of the powder into her mouth. She whipped
around, puffs of white
powder erupting between her teeth.
She said her stomach hurt. I thought
about all that powder billowing
inside her, her lungs filling with it, alveoli
swirling like snow globes. The body is a strange
vessel of veins, formidable—this
overdose did not hurt her. That night
we ate dinner—salty potatoes, milk
glasses sweating. I can’t say I asked
how she felt, can’t say that when she smiled
I thought I still saw white flecks
of powder on her gums. There is no
lesson in all this except the body. We inhale
and consume. Our bodies understand.