Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela

The kind of awake that feels like exhaustion.

Sadness untended by tears.

The way the car engine doesn’t want to turn over,

so I’m always afraid I don’t get to leave.


She said, “yeah I fucked her but I always pull out.”

Said, “I go to Dreams with a suitcase.”

Wondered, “Has a side jawn ever opened you up?”

So I was always quoting her.


It’s the concrete weight of the place,

the overwhelming absurd guilt of it,

the hyper resilient laughter and love within it,

that demands more layers of meaning


than we’re taught to.

Like how I pretend I’m alone

when I don’t want to be alone.

How the days are shorter now,

and one good night

doesn’t promise another.


She reasoned, “Trust ourselves? That’s how we got here.”


Or how, every time I drive away,

I see the business sign offering

Confined Space Rescue

and wonder how many people call.


They’re just a few blocks from the jails,

an interpretation away from religion.


Found In Volume 46, No. 05
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Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela
About the Author

Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas and, though she’s also paid some sort of rent in Lawrence, Detroit, D.C., Laramie, Havana and the Mexican state of Chiapas, a collective house in Philadelphia has long been home. Her writing has been supported by many rad people and projects including Organize Your Own: The Politics and Poetics of Self-Determination Movements (Soberscove 2016). She is the founder of Thread Makes Blanket press and teaches at Community College of Philadelphia.