|Chagrin River Review||
Johnnie Clemens May
Magenta, she whispered over and
over, even before she had learned
the words majestic and magnificent.
Mahogany sounded solid,
unlike the life she lived with
family, moving almost every year,
but midnight blue seemed
too dark, a color too close
to black, too threatening--
the color of a sky without stars
or as menacing as the weeds
outside, tall and jagged
while melon looked washed out--
her mother with shoulders bent,
her grandmother, napping
in the scarred green leather chair
most of the day, pining
for a lost life in Tennessee.
Blue violet, the color of kings,
reminded her of homemade jam,
and she loved the way it blended
so well with burnt orange,
the paint her big sister had picked
to cover the walls of the apartment
where they all lived
in four rooms behind the used
furniture store her father owned.
This Florida orange—the hot shade of
shame from a leather belt snapping,
slapping at backs and buttocks.
But burnt sienna was this child’s
favorite crayon name—only because
of the way the word sienna
slipped along her tongue
as she chanted it night after night
while lying on the ribbed sofabed.
Harsh words from her parents’ bedroom
silenced by sienna: a light rain falling or
the promise of sunlight.
Johnnie Clemens May has an MA with a concentration in poetry from Indiana University and an MFA from Pacific University. For over twenty years she taught poetry at the college level and has led workshops, has judged poetry contests, has participated in readings and has acted as a reader for a local literary journal. Her work has appeared in Quarry, Salt River Review, Mused, Free Verse News and Four Chambers.