The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Roshanda Johnson



is not life
not the push and the pull and the struggle of the knot
it is not the echo of laughter
or the chasing of tides
is not seeing the same sun set differently
and lifting the horizon as you slowly blink your left eye
then your right

it is not the fight or the makeup
your mother’s shitty Thanksgiving Day dinners
and outdated trivia games
it’s not the last word in the argument
nor is it the first word of an awkward romance
it won’t give you the exact same feeling
you felt the first time your heard that song
it is not the involuntary sway in your hips
or beads of sweat
or blood in your mouth from a fist fight with your best friend
it is not a slow process
the same lesson studied and lost

you can’t hold it in your mouth like Skittles or a warm kiss
it’s not velvet like grace
you can’t touch it and burn your finger
hold it to your face and feel its soft breath across your cheek

you can’t wear it like a mask
you can’t create it in the pit of your belly
and then cast it before swine
you can’t destroy and rebuild it
or let it be your testimony
you cannot mourn it
or tell it to go to hell
it’s not something you can be proud of
or so embarrassed by that you’d rather die than let anyone know
it is not mock virtue or doubt
can’t beg forgiveness before it steals the money from Grammy’s wallet
cannot get high and forget

it won’t discover it has gills while drowning in its own delusion
it won’t choose the gamut

it is not a razor used to prison tattoo teenage skin
a bullet stopped by a pocket Bible
a bottle of pills shipped to a war torn country
a water hose connected to sprinklers
a belt used for a new pair of jeans
submerging oneself in joy
throwing one’s body in front of the light
it is not a cliff used solely for the purpose of flight

it is not life



Roshanda Johnson

Vantage Point


                                         We grew up on the same block
but I without your freedom
                                                                                  and I without your evening news.

                                       We stumbled past Civil Rights
                                 but just barely made it over the fences.
                               When the barbed wire scraped our thighs
                                                                                                        we both bled red,
but I bled longer,
into the future.
I’ve been scarred by people that look just like you.
                                                                                        I am nothing like my people.

                                                      I love you.
                                                                              We have a responsibility to this love.
                                                                                                          It sees no color.
We have a responsibility to see in color.

                                                   We cannot hide
                                                                                                               behind race
the privilege of your skin

                                 and watch from an inconspicuous position.
                                                     Love should
                                                                                                               conquer all.
recognize the other’s war.




ROSHANDA "SEAN" JOHNSON came to know poetry at a young age.  She has performed spoken word and starred in plays throughout the country.  In addition to her poetic endeavors, she is also a painter, teacher, rock star auntie, and humanitarian.  To date, she has been published in 18 anthologies, published two chapbooks, Unpredicted Prophecies and My Name Be, and will be releasing her first full length anthology, All My Heroes Were Assassinated, in 2017.



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