Amaud Jamaul Johnson's first collection,Red Summer (Tupelo, 2006) was selected by Carl Phillips as winner of The Dorset Prize. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University and a graduate of the Cave Canem workshop, he holds degrees from Howard University and Cornell University. His poems have appeared, and or forthcoming in Quarterly West, Shenandoah, New England Review,The Virginia Quarterly Review, Indiana Review, and West Branch. He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Amaud Jamaul Johnson
Watch the fire undress him,
how flame fingers each button,
rolls back his collar, unzips him
without sweet talk or mystery.
See how the skin begins to gather
at his ankles, how it slips into
the embers, how it shimmers
beneath him, unshapen, iridescent,
as candlelight on a dark negligee.
Come, look at him, at all his goods,
how his whole body becomes song,
an aria of light, a psalm's kaleidoscope.
Listen as he lets loose an opus,
night's national anthem, the tune
you can't name, but can't stop humming.
There, he burns brilliant as a blue note.