Virginia Slim

Taylor Johnson

Young buck tappingits velvet against thebathroom window inthe morning. The landleaning in the pines,the well, cattails,muscadines, hot metal,in the shed, chicory onthe stove at twilight. Inthe orange morning Irose w/ my grandfather,w/ the larger animalsof our imagination, andwarmed the truck to goto the water. On theway I laid down in thetruck bed and caught arabbit barely in thegrasp of a hawk. Whatdid I know about beinghunted? I kneweverything. The meekdon't inherit shit—Istuffed my mouth withpine needles and spit, bledand spit, at theroot, and look where it'sgot me—landless. Ifthe water was a myth, thenI went in lookingfor my dog only to findmy grandmother'sarmchair. I rode it as Iwould any wet story—to deeper blue. Listen:by lamplight mygrandfather would leadme to the edge of thewoods—this is yoursthen he would kill thelight. If I told you heflew back to his house,what are you supposedto believe; it was justme and my green hopepressing through theblack. How else am Isupposed to enter theworld if I'd already leftonce: as myth: not setapart: but as a smallshelled thing: low:toiling in the dirt: liftingevery bit of black tobreathe

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Taylor Johnson is from Washington, DC. They are the author of Inheritance (Alice James Books, 2020), winner of the 2021 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. Their work appears in The Paris Review, The Baffler, Scalawag, and elsewhere. Johnson is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a recipient of the 2017 Larry Neal Writers’ Award from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the 2021 Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging Writers from Lambda Literary.

Cover of Inheritance

Farmington, Maine

The University of Maine at Farmington

"The inheritance of the ones who cannot have and are not one is passed on lyrically, in the terrible arrangements we make with pleasure against pleasure. Knowing all about this runs parallel to poetry before crossing over, going deeper, into the general song of being sung through, of being lengthened beyond what I can know. Taylor Johnson beautifully and miraculously extends that way, ‘So I’m singing.’ I’m singing with them, about them, because of them."
—Fred Moten

"Johnson seems part of a new apotheosis in modern American lyric poetry that has evolved in younger poets from the rich inflection, vernacular, sound, pitch, timbre, and syncopation of modern jazz and blues. The polyphonic nature of this new poetry is sheer pleasure."
—Walter Holland, Rain Taxi

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