Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

Transmogrify
00:00 / 01:07

There is not space for grief,

it runs 

like water

forging a path.

 

Where riverbeds

are blocked by tasks

tiles upon each other

building into each crevice…

 

and so the grief

—patient insistent flood she is—

simply swallows swells

& rises like a global shift.

 

She rewrites the topography.

She disappears swaths of life.

She submerges the living.

 

She fills the ears & filters

sound so that a 

tap tap tap

from deep beneath,

moves front & center.

 

She quietly swallows 

& forces you still

to listen, consider—

for just

as long

as you can

hold 

your 

breath

or grow 

gills that 

pull air

from

that

thick-

ness. 

Kelly-Girl Johnston is an autistic writer, visual artist, nascent coder and educator based in The Bronx, NYC, where she teaches English and Art History at a visual arts-focused high school. Kelly's work reflects her neurodivergent perception of time, sound, and social interaction, among other things. Forthcoming publications include the Blue Mountain Review and Amethyst Review. Much of her time is spent meditating, drawing, workshopping at Poets House and staring into space. Kelly speaks, reads, writes and listens in Arabic, Farsi, some Slovak, a bit of Spanish and her native English.

 

"This poem, Transmogrify, is a dispatch from a meditation in which I viscerally experienced a cloud of grief filling my body. I asked that grief “What do you want to teach me?” and in response the energy shifted completely from a hovering humid weight compressing my lungs into a rising powerful force traveling up my spine. As the energy rose I heard “strength.” Full stop. (Or Full on go. ;-))

 

Transmogrify, and the meditation that formed it, was written 40 days after my grandmother, Lillian Robinson Beach, passed away at 96 years old. She was my best friend, my primary attachment, and had told me since my earliest memories: “Kelly Girl, you have a way with words” and “Kelly Girl, you gotta do what you gotta do.” 

 

Prior to writing Transmogrify I had deliberately taken a 21-year hiatus from writing poetry because it felt as if it was eating my head. (In fact, it was and is my way of processing the onslaught on sensory input). After receiving this legacy in poem form from my G-ma, I understood—finally, after two years of daily meditation, journaling, and “mad extra” (as we say in the Bronx) personal work resulting in a formal Autism diagnosis among other awakenings, that what I “gotta do” is re-open the channels to my creative power. 

 

This piece—and all of my work—is in honor of Lillian Robinson Beach who valued and deeply enjoyed my neurodivergence and who raised me to never be scared to pee my pants laughing."