from Born Again, by Ivy Johnson

Ivy Johnson is a poet and performance artist in Oakland, CA. Her book, As They Fall, is a collection of 110 notecards for aleatoric ritual and was published by Timeless, Infinite Light in 2013. She is co-founder of The Third Thing, an ecstatic feminist performance art duo. They have a self-titled chapbook out with Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs. Her book, Born Again, is forthcoming from The Operating System in 2018.


Hunger can burn into power
I have the power of seduction
Men are the head but I am the neck
And I will turn you
Spin your head all the way around
I wear fire red lipstick I drive a fire corvette
I have the devil behind me and your faith is weak
A wildfire in the woods broke out behind our house
It was born of your sin
You sex burns so hard the flames strangle you
Night falls and the town’s teenage boys pace below my window
Hooting and hollering like wild dogs for my heat
But you are the only one
The only one, the only one
I say nothing
Your wish is the command of me
You look at me and I am born
And it pleases God
I’m so hungry in this world
And this is the only way that I am loved
This dirty little surplus is burning
I rip off the root of my sex and I starve
In ecstasy, in war, and in love
Oh, how the face quickens to a mirror
And empathy slights to parody
Look at me


He teaches me to splay, the master
Like any living creature
Clinging to the edges of the earth
He says
It will hold you
What he means is
You will live forever
This supple prayer
This protean chain of beings
Salvaging their blood in new hosts
The planet earth is going to be recycled
The master taught me
The ancients rendered a natural form
And it is inside him
No it is not him
I tell you, it is not
My ethics are to keep things natural
I paint myself for no one
Seduction is no disguise
There is no theatre in love
I am pure and the master is pure
The truth is easy
What choice do we have in simple fate
I am preparing my body like a child bride
I’ll take no pity
The pleasure is all mine
Truly, the pleasure is all mine


I’m on top of the world
I grew up a village girl but now I’m urbane
I used to till the fields
I used to hide my dirty feet from townsfolk
Look at me now
I’m living proof that you can do anything you put your mind to
I used to think I was stuck with this body I was born in
Its this dream I have that I am living
That I am not a ghost
I live in a six floor walk up
The view from my bedroom is a brick wall
The view from my living room is a grid of tiny windows
Eyes of the city only reflect
At night I walk naked to pee under bright lights
Nowhere in this city do I find human touch
The last time I was touched I was raped
Just kidding
The last time I was touched I was raped
By day the womenfolk whisper and look at me without turning their heads
There’s this myth about the human face
I could tell you so many stories
I turn off the lights
The courtyard is locked and filled with garbage
I dream of jumping off
I make a plan
The plan is to fall


In my life I have known death
Before it comes
A voice implanted in my head tells me
I can feel his presence leaving the earth
Hovering behind the real
Is inside me with his mass
Throbbing like the death messenger
Implanted in my head
Go back to sleep
That’s what he told me
Go back to sleep


I stand at the ocean
This tumultuous black mirror
Roaring like life
And reflect
Oh, chaos
I am everything
This blood unseen
Trickling Out
Pulsing so naturally
But rank in the way
It calls him to me
Yes, the night swarms
In the body of predators
Circling around
This burning ship


What is the trace of flesh
What is the ghost of trace
When I leave my apartment
For the first time I tell myself I am real
I am real in the street
I am real on the escalator
When I try on clothes this proves I have a body
When was the last time I spoke
What is the sound of my voice
Where did that bird fly away to
I float down the crystal elevator at the Apple Store
Its operatic like a beautiful woman like a white sheet full of air
Ophelia floats dead in a river full of flowers and meaning
Let Maria Callas kill her voice for one song
In slow motion in black and white
The way sound trembles water


Everything that happens happens for a reason
I was born a sinner
I have torqued my will
Making myself into the image of idols
I have allowed myself to be worshiped by the needy
Amassing a small sum from their lack
The human will drags guilt behind by its debt
I wasn’t a willful child
No, I was obsequious I was on my knees
My neon sex rose up from the silt
Rapt like a laughing gif
Is this what it means to be ravished by god
I have followed my pleasure to the bad way
There is a shadow cast over people like me
When I was a child a woman laid hands on me and prophesied
She said never mind try and follow God anyway
If I am to be cast out wear the robes of Medea
Pronounce banished the Shakespearian way
Your arm covers the black hold of your face as you point towards hell
You too know the way

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