For Izzy

The day that my insides

                became my outsides (the brown mess clotted 

under my freckled nose

lips curdled with curious disgust)

I stared at my older sister      your mother 

as she brushed her wet hair 

in the bathroom 

                One one-hundred, Two one-hundred

to the same rhythm as yesterday

like nothing had changed

I stood on the sepia tile and counted 

                Four one-hundred, Five one-hundred

My face was red-hit

like the insides that had recently 

                become outsides

I thought she would be able

to read what happened

in the crimson air over my head—She could read 

            so much else that happened

            in the air over my head 

                        like my insides were outside

I waited for her to see that I was a woman,

that now she should start teaching me

how to curl my hair and smell like summer 

              Six one-hundred, Seven one-hundred 

But she glared over with question marks for eyeballs 

                           Why are you staring at me

My mother      your grandmother       must have mouthed

                 what happened in my underwear 

because your mother           my sister

suddenly made me a ruby necklace of her arms

                     you poor thing, you poor thing

and I might be imagining it, but I think she cried 

                             insides pouring outside

              Eight one-hundred, Nine one-hundred

She drove me to the Pacific Ocean

like the salt and the waves could clean

                my blood stained outsides inside

As the waves went back and forth,

I began to count 

               Ten one-hundred, Eleven one-hundred

all the wounds and all the blood

I didn’t know about yet

Stephanie Johnson

is a Pushcart Prize nominated author, a finalist for the 2016 Claire Keyes poetry award, and winner of the 2017 Lumina Poetry Prize. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Passed Note. Her work has been published by Penny, Banshee and QU, among others. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband and their seven bookshelves. 

Contributions by Stephanie Johnson