Marci Rae Johnson

Showing Existence or Condition


To be. Infinitive.
From the Latin infinitas as in
the mind of God, the universe
the space before
                                 and after.

The darkness, brooding.
The smallest part of the atom.

The moment
            before memory begins.


Not a memory, but a photo—
my mother standing in the kitchen
one arm dangling, the other resting
across the shelf of her belly.
The enigmatic smile, wondering
what's to come?


The moment of sleep
just before

I am poured out like water firstborn
protogonos primordial like
the sea-god Proteus ready
to change into anything perhaps
even able to foretell the future
in the first moment the present
present before my past begins
the am, is, are—


Not even a photo, but a memory
of a photo—me in my mother's arms,
the brown couch with the pattern
that later will imprint my face as I nap,
the yellow afghan they will wrap
around me the night they take me
to the hospital—
            that future

vanishing point, though there is
no future tense as such—


only more present, the participle:
My mother's arms dangling,
her face blank looking out the window

waiting for something to change.

In the other room, music on the radio,
women singing about love lost.
My toys on the floor, little people
in their little house.
            Too much silence.
I'm singing along, one less man
to pick up after.


I will be singing. I will be watching,
waiting. Subjunctive: as usual using
the present tense to express
            the future.

There is no way to get from here
to there.

to the photos, another kind of birth,
the water this time poured over my head
as I pass through the sea easily,
with only a little symbolic drowning.


I have been poured out
    like water—

past participle, from the Greek "partaking"

as in, the past always present in the present.

As in, using words that imply future action.


Not even a photo or a memory
    but a dream—

it seems the eyes work just as well.

Maybe better, as in
           the dream with no light
only layers of darkness, or the dream

within the dream where the ravine
beside the old white house
is always so green with spring.

Was always so green.
As if it were always green, and spring—


past subjunctive, as if I were always
swinging on the swing set
the storm coming in over the trees,
wishing for the moment to begin

or never to end.
    As if

I would always