first met Kaydi Johnson at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New
York, when we were graduate students in Marie Howe's Craft Class. We
exchanged few words privately, but I knew she had written and recorded a
critically acclaimed CD, Tied. Her lyrics and music were visual, lush,
sensuous, and resonating, and she had a knack for effortlessly blending
music and the spoken word.
This interview was conducted at The Whitney Museum in New York City,
during the time she was working on her second CD, "No goD's
Allowed." It contains audio clips of the songs, "Eddie,"
"The Way She
Loves," and "Carpal
Tunnel," from the new album.
The Interview with Kaydi Johnson
Renee Bandazian: Do you feel that your work
has a Long Island sensibilitya sense of "place"? When I read your poems or
listen to your songs, I hear movement: cars and trucks,
traveling, leaves, parks, Ferris wheelsa suburban sensibility that takes us back to
simpler times. Some of your songs sound nostalgic for the 1950's, a "lost
America" so to speak.
Kaydi Johnson: I would say the sensibility in my work is probably not
Long Island or any specific place, but rather what I subconsciously gathered from a lot of
Irish folklore and literature that was read to me as a child. It's more of a universal
sensibility. I don't really know what a Long Island sensibility would be. I'm also
influenced by the fact that I live part of the time in the Catskill Mountains, so there
are rural connotations as well as suburban ones. It's a kind of mixture of the two. I
also guess a song like "Eddie" would have a 1950's feeling. I was born in 1961,
so I really didn't grow up in the 1950's, but my parents did, and that probably carried
over. My family lived in a suburban area, but I would also consider them rural since
they came from a very poor, rural area of Ireland. We were living in this hub
of wealth and suburban atmosphere, but in the center of my family, it was something very
much other than that.
RB: You're a singer, you play the guitar,
and you're a songwriter, poet, and novelist. How would
you rank these if you had to?
KJ: That's a difficult question because of the nature of who I am.
There might be a week when I consider myself singer/songwriter first and foremost. Then
there might be another week when I put the guitar away and consider myself a novelist first
and foremost. Then I'll write a poem that strikes a cord in my heart, and I'll say,
"I'm a poet first and foremost." So I don't think I can really say what I am
first and foremost, but I will say the singer/songwriter aspect is enjoyable to me because
the material is immediately accessible to people. I can play live, sing,
feedback, bring groups of people together and emote. I can create this little universe,
which is what music does. Today, I would say singer/songwriter, but it varies.
RB: When you're writing lyrics, a poem, or a
novel, do you start with a character, a plot, or an image?
KJ: When I'm writing, I always start with a character. Then the
character takes on a life of its own and guides me. That's the beauty of writingthe
euphoriawhen you write up a character and they start to move around and your whole
life is consumed by thinking about this fictional person.
I write a song differently than a story or poem. The difficulty with poetry is that the
music has to be built in using rhythm and line breaks. Fiction is also very
lyrical. I find myself using my whole body when I writemoving it to the rhythm of
the lines and sentences. For me, that's the real enjoyment outside of the characters.
Lately, I've been setting short stories to
music, then editing them so they're like story/song. I'm very interested in that genre.
Music and story
used to be separate for me, but now I'm merging them.
RB: How old were you when you started writing?
Who were your earliest influences? Who are your influences now in fiction, poetry, and
KJ: I started writing when I was 8. I remember starting my first novel
then, but I didn't finish it. I'm writing a novel now, and it's almost finished! My
earliest influence in songwriting and storytelling was my dad. He was very interesting
and adventurous. An orphan, he bounced around all over the world. When I was a little
girl, he would tell me his stories, and they were so dynamic. He would make up songs and
sing to me, so I would have to say my dad was one of my biggest
As to music, being a child in the 1960's and 1970's, I was highly influenced by Joni
Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I also loved Jimi Hendrix and The Grateful
Dead. I don't know that I could narrow my music down and say it fits into any category or
is like anybody else's. People have compared me to Ani DeFranco and Joan
Baezcompletely opposite ends of the spectrum, so it's very difficult for me to put
myself into a box.
In poetry? Believe it or not, The Bible. I grew up Catholic, a
staunch, practicing Catholic. The rhythm of prayer, the rhythm of The
Bible and its language was my earliest poetic influence.
RB: When you're writing a first draft, whether
it's fiction, poetry, or song, do you write it longhand, or do you use a
typewriter or computer?
KJ: I always write songs in longhand, then go to the computer and
make a hard copy. Poetry always begins in longhand. With fiction, I can start a scene
longhand or on the computer, depending on where I am when the spirit moves me.
RB: Do you find you're more inspired at certain times of
KJ: I like to write in the late afternoon, say from two to seven.
RB: On your first CD, Tied,
what were you listening to, specifically, or reading when you wrote the title
did you shy away from reading or listening to anything?
KJ: The songs from Tied were
written at various times. I was taking a fiction class with author
Richard Ellman. He was reading parts of my novel, and he said it was very lyrical; he was
extremely encouraging. He encouraged me to go for my M.F.A. I also showed him some of my
songs, and he was enthralled with them, loved them, and he said, 'you really should do
something with your music as well.' He was my
mentor. He was dying of cancer, and he would come to class really ill. I would drive him
home after class and help him into the house. Then he passed away, and it was very hard: I had been studying with him for two years, and we had become friends. I was in my
cabin in the Catskills, and a friend called and told me she had just read his obituary in The
New York Times. I was in the cabin alone, and I picked up my guitar and
"She Will," the opening track on the CD. I decided this was a dream I'd had
since I was a child, one I had put aside for personal reasons. With the news of his death,
I just accelerated and said, "I'm going to do this." I walked into a recording
studioI did this blindand made the recording. I wrote a lot of the songs on Tied while in the process of recording, but while I
was doing this, I was not reading or listening to other things.
most incredible thing I've experienced from bringing my music out and on the road is
that people have told me it has changed their lives.
it's happened, I have no idea, but, somehow, it registers emotionally and gets
them to start thinking about their place in the world.
RB: Your second CD, new and about to be
released, is called No goDs Allowed. Was the process the same?
KJ: No, not at all. It was completely different. I was about a year
into my M.F.A. at Sarah Lawrence; I was writing short stories, some poetry,
and some prose. As a result
of being in the program, I started editing my stories and putting them to music. I had never written lyrics
prior to writing the music.
The second CD is a mixture of spoken word and song: some poetry, some short story, and
some pure song.
RB: At 30-something you went back to
school to pursue a graduate degree in writing. You also released your first CD at about
the same time. Do you have any advice for someone in their late thirties or forties who
wants to get on a different career trackor more specifically for a
woman, a wife and
mother most of her adult life, who has had to put husband, family, and children first, but
is finally at a point in her life where she wants to spread her wings and do
something on her own creatively?
KJ: I'm not big on advice. I think that's a really huge personal
decision. It has been the hardest thing for me to do and also the most satisfying. I have
children and I'm also on the brink of getting out of my marriage. I think there is a
sense sometimes, especially for women, that there is this choice: you are going to choose
your art or your family. There's a great poem by Mary Oliver
called "The Journey" that expresses this so well. There comes a time in
life when you are giving, giving, giving to everyone else, but you need to do this thing
for yourself. On the one hand, something dies, but on the other, something else is born.
And, no. People are not pleased when you choose your self because you are not giving them
your full attention. I don't know where I read it, but I've read, "art and marriage
On No goDs Allowed, there's a song called "Carpal Tunnel"
that addresses this issue. A woman is confronted with a choice between a relationship and
art. She chooses art. My advice would be: if you can do it all, do it all, or else try to
do it a little at a time. I did that for a while but things changed. Nothing stays the
same. I'm happy.
RB: But what about you? Does
being around younger people ever discourage you, ever make you feel as
if you should be further along?
KJ: I've kind of come to terms with that by not seeing my life
linear. Things don't necessarily have to work in a certain order. I had my first child when I was 20 years old, and everything went on
I'm still young; I'm 39.
Culturally, you're supposed to get out of college at 22, get married, have your career,
have children, and then what? Didn't do that. Haven't been there. Don't want to be there.
There are things younger people have to deal with that I don't, like making a
living. I often see young people who are fabulous artists and writers who, because there
is not a lot of money to be made in the arts, have to get a 9- to- 5 job, and their work
suffers! I worked for 20 years in restaurant management, made money, invested it.
Now I don't have to worry so much about establishing a career, buying a house, raising
the kids, because I've done it. Yes, my self-esteem suffers because I wake up in the
middle of the night and think, "What the heck am I doing? Singer/songwriter/writer? I
should have a job; I should be a teacher." I have taught, but if I were
teaching now, my
artwork would suffer. It's very demanding trying to market my music, write,
and do all these things. It's a full-time-plus job. If I had a 9- to- 5 job, I
wouldn't be able to do it.
There are pros and cons on either end, and I would have to say that being our age now
and doing what we want is a conscious decision; it's a hard decision, but it's rewarding
because it's something we want, and it's ours. We, ourselves, have decided. It's
RB: Do you feel you have more to
write about now than you would have at a younger age?
KJ: I've discovered, being with people of all
ages, that younger people tend to
write more about their immediate situation; their writing is much more autobiographical.
It's a great on-ramp, but it's true that being older, I'm bringing
in more people and emotions.
are all writing about what we know.
more we live, the more we have to write about; just by virtue of having those years
under my belt, I write differently.
I may not have more to say, but I know my writing is different.
I would not have written the same ten or twelve years ago.
RB: This question may seem oxymoronic. Many
male poets who are married to female poets feel the relationship is not
hurting their art. Do you think women writers feel that way, or do you think they would
say their art suffered? From a woman's perspective, can two artists live together and
KJ: I think that would have a lot to do with the specific man
involved. I doubt that all men are threatened by a woman's pursuing her art... as long as it
doesn't get competitive; competition could create a problem. However, just by virtue of
the roles we've assumed as women and men, because women are the nurturers, I would imagine
it's easier for a man to pursue the arts and get away with it than it is for a woman.
As Virginia Woolf said, "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to
be a writer." I think I've followed that philosophy and it's changed my life. If you
have to do it, you have to do it, and if the person you're with can't accept it, well,
maybe it's time to move on.
RB: What do you hope to bring to
your listeners and readers with your songs, poetry, and your novel?
KJ: I guess I would have to answer that with what I would want to
derive from other people's work. I would want it to be thought-provoking, pleasurable, and
pain-inducing, because life without pain is not life. A lot of my songs have been
described as both joyous and haunting; life has both of those sides to it.
Probably the most incredible thing I've experienced from bringing my music out and
on the road is that people have told me it has changed their lives. How it's
happened, I have no idea, but, somehow, it registers emotionally and gets them
to start thinking about their place in the world. I'm thinking about a young man in particular who is
married, has three children, and is bogged down with a 9- to- 5 job. He came to a show in
Champaign, Illinois, fell in love with my music, and decided he
had missed a big part of himself by putting his guitar away 20 years ago. After coming
to my show, he started writing songs again. I've had subsequent
e-mails from him telling me his life is so much richer for that. A lot of my songs talk
about art and the struggle between art and the so-called ' real world.' I hate saying that
because art is the ' real world' for me right now.
I would also just like to make somebody feel good. My novel is a character novel that
takes place in the 1950's about a poor rural family in a town where the right of eminent
domain is going on and a highway is being built. Everyone is being moved, and it addresses
a lot of issues about family and the conventional family, and how this family
is not. The protagonist is a female struggling with all of thiswhat's hers and
what's somebody else's. If a woman who is not really in charge of her life can read this
and get some kind of inspiration, some kind of drive to move forward, I'll have done my
work. I don't want to say that it's my work because it's not. My work is just something I
have to do, but if the novel influences someone else or makes somebody feel better or
worsebecause sometimes you have to feel worse before you can feel betterI find that gratifying.
RB: You said you're working on a
novel. Do you have a title yet?
KJ: Dizzy Me a Monkey. And everyone is like,
"what does that mean?" Well, the protagonist of the novel is Ida, and her
youngest child, Petey, is five. He has a few things wrong with him, and he doesn't talk
much, but one of the things he says is, "Mom, dizzy me a monkey." And she picks
him up and spins him around, and he walks across the floor like he's a monkey. It's not
about that, but that's the title.
RB: Your mother died when you were very young.
Do you feel a heightened sense of mortality because of that?
KJ: We all come to the edge. There's the grandparent, there's the
parent, and then there's the child. Hopefully the child doesn't fall off the edge first.
My mother fell off the edge before her mother.
My mom was 39 when she died, and I'm 39 now. My friend and mentor, Richard
Ellman, died two years ago. I think the frame of his death and my coming up on the age when
my mother died has completely changed my outlook on life. I went into overdrive. I stopped
worrying about what other people think. I realized that other people's pain is not mine,
and I can not take it away from them, whether it be my children's pain, my ex-husband's,
my friends', or my family's. The only way I can look at leaving this world is in terms of
being old, sitting back in my rocking chair by the fire and saying, I did this, and I did
that. Coming upon the anniversary of my mother's death, though, I think, well, I may not
ever reach that rocking chair: there is this sensewhen you lose a parent really
youngthis sense of impending doom, that it's your destiny, too. It's definitely very
real. Having reached her birthday and having come up on the other side is scary, too,
because, where do I go from here? I'm out on a limb, but it's one I want to be on.
I started to really take charge of my life and do things I need to do.
RB: On No goDs Allowed, among
your favorites are the songs, "Eddie," "Copper Beach Tree," Carpal
Tunnel," "Holding the Light," and "Trying Not to Love." Do you
want to talk about one or some of those songs?
KJ: I'll start with "Eddie." "Eddie," started out
as a short story. Actually a friend of mine was kidding around and said, "Why don't
you write a song about me?" And I wondered how I would write a song about
him. Again, I don't write songs about specific people, but there are character
traits, personality traits, and spirit that incorporate themselves into a character.
"Eddie" in Real Audio
"Eddie" is fictional, but "Eddie" turns out to be
the man that a lot
of men want to be: the man a lot of women have loved tremendously but had to leave,
the man at odds with conventional life, finding himself; the man every mother is afraid of
her daughter's becoming involved with, but who is really
kind of innocent in his dangerous sigh. It's a really important song,
but I didn't realize
how important it was until I started performing it live and saw how
people were taken with it. Everyone identifies with "Eddie"
or the protagonist, a female, who gets in a car with this guy who drives real fast. They
have adventures, and he's sort of the quintessential James Dean, but
there's a lot more going ona lot of metaphor for life itself and taking risks.
Sometimes taking those risks doesn't look like a good decision, but you just have to
because you have no choice.
RB: The details in "Eddie" are so
visual, particularly the tattoo of Greta Garbo's legs on his shoulders. Do you make up the
details in your stories and songs, or are they something that you collect through
observations? Do you consider yourself an observer, a people watcher?
KJ: Yes. I think Marie Howe said in a class I took with her that
"if you stare at something long enough, it will stare back at you," whether it
be an object or a person. I love to observe people. I also make things up. A lot of
details come from my imagination. I'd never seen Greta Garbo's legs on a man's shoulders,
but I have since I created "Eddie."
RB: Tell us about "Copper
Beach Tree." There are a lot of similes in that song. I loved the similes "like
treasure in a sling shot," and "like their wings on the heartbreak of his
KJ: "Copper Beach Tree" is more autobiographical than a lot
of my other songs. It's about a young girl going through a shoebox of family photos. All
these photos have been taken in front of one tree, and she describes each
in detail. The woman in one of the photos, her mother, is gone, and the tree becomes the
symbol for life in a yard, in a houseall the different images and faces of this
tree and the people who lived through all of its phases:
It's a playground
It's a port of respite
It's a graveyard
Of the songs I've written, this is one of my favorites, but it's sad. "Sun no
bigger,/ but as bright as a quarter/stuck in a Y of a branch like treasure in a
slingshot." Be prepared to pull out your tissues.
RB: One of the most important songs on your
upcoming CD is "Carpal Tunnel."
KJ: In that song, a couple meets down by the river, and the woman has
forgotten the wine and the lunch. She says, "I was in the middle of writing one of
those stubborn poems that refuse to let me leave it alone." And the chorus is:
Listen to the
Love is not for me now
You say I don't know the ways of it yet.
I say it's not what I'm not finding, Hon, I don't want to
because to take your hand I might lose what's in mine,
and I really don't want to do that yet.
The crux of that whole song is being presented with the personal
choice of giving up one thing for another. I was presented with that choice, and that's
how the song was born, so it's a poignant and relevant one. Many people, including men,
have identified with it.
RB: Let's talk about "Holding the
Light." The song mentions sons. Is it about your sons?
KJ: No. That song was written about my ex-husband, believe it or not.
When you're in a relationship for so many years, when somebody steps into your heart, no
matter what, even if you can't live with them, they never really leave that place in your
heart. It is a song about not being able to see the rest of this person, but there is some
light they are holding. Actually, it's very dark out, and a man is holding a lantern
outside a woman's window. The lyrics are:
||I cant see your eyes, but the light, it travels on
the way youre holding that light, makes me think,
youre the sun for me with arms for me...
Regardless of all the things going on, all the negatives, there's always some aspect of
that person you can never really give up. This is what makes leaving relationships so
difficult. That's the metaphor in that song.
RB: Will you talk about "Trying Not to
KJ: [Laughs.] "Trying Not to Love." I'm always kidding
around about how I do not like to write love songs. Too many love songs have been written,
and they all sound the same. So I wrote "Trying Not to Love," because I find
myself usually trying not to love. It's almost like "Carpal Tunnel" in that you
meet somebody, and you don't want to get involved; you don't want to love them because you
know what's going to happen.
The song, though, is of the sentiment, 'you know what? I think I will. I think I might.
I think I could love you.' It's about resisting the love relationship, because you know,
especially at our age, all that's involved, all the baggage that's going to come with it,
so you try not to love, but guess what? You can try until you're six feet
sometimes you can't help it. [Laughs.]
"The Way She Loves"
RB: That reminds me of Gibran's writings on
love. "Think not you can guide the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy,
guides your course."
KJ: That's great. Perfect.
RB: Do you want to elaborate at all on your
first CD, Tied?
Are there any songs there, in particular, that you want to talk about?
KJ: I think my favorite song on the record is the title track,
"Tied," and that's why it's the title track. Again, the theme
is consistent; it's a song about a woman involved in a relationship who
is confronted with somebody on the outside she is very attracted to, and she makes a
decision that they cannot be together in this life, that they'll have to be together in
some other life. It's about the ramifications between choosing the right thing and the
wrong thing, about what is right and what is wrong, and whether it's right for her to
pursue somebody she may be better off with or stay in the situation she's in. It's a
metaphor for so many things. It's not just about relationships. It's about jobs; it's
about staying in situations where we feel comfortable, about being
afraid to take the risk in spite of seeing something that might be
RB: Are there any other songs on
Tied that are among your favorites?
KJ: Well, I know one of your favorites is "Dirty Room," so
we could talk about that. "Dirty Room" is a song.... Well, what do you think
"Dirty Room" is about?
RB: It's about a man who expects his wife to
keep a perfectly ordered home for him, as well as a perfectly ordered existence. When he
comes home at the end of the day and things aren't up to his exacting standards, he says, "
And what are you doing with yourself all day?"
KJ: And the chorus, of course, says, "I'm going to keep this
dirty room." The woman decides to keep the room dirty. Again, a metaphor for a lot of
things, because, God, you don't want things to be so neat and tidy. At least, I
don't! [Laughs.] Do you?
[Kaydi accidentally tips over the wine glasses.]
[Both are laughing now.]
RB: In terms of poetry and songwriting, do you
consider yourself from a particular school or aesthetic?
KJ: Wow. "American Grocery Store" would be considered Beat.
It sounds like something that would have been written in Greenwich Village in the 1970's. Though
it was written for the Village in the late 1990's.
Some of my poetry is confessional; some of it is not. I think it varies. It's a blend.
RB: Where do you see your work heading now
after the No goDs Allowed tour to promote the CD? What do you see
yourself doing next?
KJ: Once the record is released, there will be the big job
of promoting it.
I'll be sending it to radio stations and traveling throughout the country. I'll also be
doing tours in pockets of the country where I've been before and people are anxious to
have me back. That is wonderful.
After that, I'd really like to focus on sending some of my writing out. My novel, in particular, is almost finished. I've written about 350
pages, and I'm just about finished. I'll go back and re-edit it, and send it out.
Then I'd like to start a new novel.
RB: You mentioned that you worked in the
restaurant business for many years, and you also touched on the fact that you teach or
have taught. How do you see teaching as a profession for writers? Do you think teaching is
a hindrance to your writing or a help?
KJ: I've taught eighth grade. I had 130 students and I taught English.
That was one of the most demanding jobs I've ever had: lots of compositions, lots of
corrections, lots of reading, and lots of tests. In that space, I could not work on
anything else but really creative lesson plans. I loved what I was doing, but in terms of
being able to do any writing of my own? No. Would I ever go back to it? I'm not saying never,
but at this point in life? No. It's hard, though, because there are days that I really
need the structure of 9- to- 5; it's often difficult to get motivated to write. And it's
hard, too, because you write by yourself, and you wonder where this is going and
where it's going to end? But you have to ask yourself where anything
ends. At least
I'll die having tried, and if nothing ever happens.... It's like perpetual play. It's
spending your life in your own imagination, and it's very self-indulgent. But you know
what? I really don't have a choice right now. That's the answer to that.
RB: Are there any people you share your work
with or use as a sounding board during the writing process?
KJ: Yes, a few people, a couple of people in particular. One is my
friend, Harriet Rovener. She's a psychotherapist and an aspiring writer. She's a wonderful
reader and a wonderful editor. She's also written a book and published. I have
another friend, Chris Conroy, who was in the Sarah Lawrence M.F.A. Program with me. I play
him my songs and read him my work, and vice versa. We give each other feedback. This is
very important because writing is such a lonely occupation. Sometimes your eye is not as
clear as someone else's because it's your work.
RB: How many poems or songs do you work on at a
KJ: I could have as many as five songs, three short stories, three
poems, plus a chapter of my novel going at the same time, which is difficult.
I get up
in the morning, and it's like having too many pots on the stove. Where am I going to go?
Should I finish this song or that song? It's a curse and a blessing. Sometimes that's why
it takes longer for each thing to be completed.
RB: There's a sensuality in your work, but not
an overt erotic sexuality. Do your dreams influence your work or are your songs and poems
about your dreams?
KJ: It's somewhere in the middle. When I get to the place where I am
really writingwhether it's a song, a poem, or a short storyit's almost as if I
am dreaming while I'm awake. Thomas Lux said, "A poem is not born, it's made." I
agree with that, but I think there is a birthing process, and after that birthing process,
you go back and change it, edit it, and polish it. That's the craft of
writing, but as far
as its being born, I just kind of sit. It's almost kind of a Zen thing: these things kind
of come through me, so, yes, they would have a dreamy texture. Are they actual dreams that
I've had? No, probably never.
RB: If you weren't a writer, what would you be
doing right now?
KJ: I'd probably be a prostitute. [Laughs.]
RB: OK. Good answer. What books are on your
night stand right now? What are you reading?
KJ: I'm reading Stephen Dunn's poetry. I'm also reading a novel by
Larry Brown, called Fay.
RB: What about music? Are you listening to
anything other than cuts of your new CD?
KJ: Yes. I like a lot of independent artists, and
indie music out there so much better than the stuff they play on the radio. There
are middle-aged female artists that are just fabulous. Ward Stevenson is one of my
favorite independent male artists. I like Annie Gallup, Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplanski and
Shawn Colvin. I love Ani DeFranco. Bruce Coburn is a wonderful songwriter. The list goes
RB: In the title track of your new CD,
"Not an Ordinary goD," I notice that "g-o" is in lower case and
"D" is capitalized. Why is that?
KJ: No goDs Allowed is the title of the record, and
the premise of the song, "Not an Ordinary goD," is that ' Dog' spelled backwards is
God.' I played this song, and a fundamentalist Christian was totally insulted,
and I don't expect even very religious people to be insulted by this song. I look at an
animal, or I look at nature, particularly my dog, and there's a divinity in animals and
nature that for me is God. Now, I'm not a religious person, but the song addresses the
fact that this animal can be many things. "
God, your ordinary God, won't
come to you when you're in trouble, but this god has teeth..." means
that this dog means
business. Couples stay together because they know who will get the kids, but they're not
sure who will get the dog, a kind of spirit in our world that is so powerful that, except
for animal lovers, we often overlook it. They will always hear this song and know exactly
what I mean and appreciate it as, I think, you did.
RB: Only for me, it's cats.
KJ: OK. I love cats, too. But, ' cat' spelled backwards is
'tac.' Is there
a God named Tac?
RB: No. But, you see dogs think
they're God; cats know they are.
KJ: I'll buy that!
RB: In closing, how about reciting one of your
poems for us? Are you willing to do that?
KJ: Fine. This is actually the last poem I wrote. It's called
What if the bed you lie down in with a lover
is never the same? Noit's not what you're thinking.
Same lover, only the bed is strange.
You hop from hotel to motel,
B&B then back to the car
which faces east
where the mean sun
lounges on your windshield.
You are already a desert
inside, parched and searing from the heat
of too much wine. Sweating beneath bedspreads
never washed, too close to the mouth,
rowdy, stingy, stealing what's left
of a night's sleep.
You don't want to think about the pillows
as if their cases were reliable,
offering protection from skin,
hair, lips. The breath of a former tenant.
Getting into your car
you say good-bye to your regular lover
carrying the remains of others.
You pull away, one hand
on the wheel, the other blind
at the bottom of your bag
chasing a bottle of Advil. Head South,
arrive at your permanent address.
Take too much time getting out of the car
because home just isn't, anymore.
Renee Bandazian is a poet and freelance writer who serves as a volunteer in the PEN Prison Writing Project, and with STARTII, an animal rescue organization. She is a student in the
M.F.A. Program at Sarah Lawrence College and is the Managing Editor of The
Cortland Review. She has been published in Antipodes, and
will be published in an upcoming issue of Mantis.