Published on Academy of American Poets (

Other Women’s Children

                              (for my sisters)

I still don’t know how he knew
I was running. My mouth was open,
or those boys were barking that loud;
not that I hadn’t been chased
by dogs. There’s a moment when
you can’t tell from which angle
it’s coming, and the air is a red drum,
and the trees lean away from you,
and the ground is wet.     Lonnie drove
truck nights, and grew strawberries
in our backyard, which were small,
but sweet. You could taste his hands
in the dirt, which the mouth learns
to read as green and sweet. My mother
made him liver and onions; we ate fish
Fridays and I wasn’t allowed milk. He’s why
I like my eggs runny. I still don’t understand
anything about engines. I can’t remember
why those boys were after me. Maybe
it makes sense why a Rottweiler
would break a fence.      Lonnie stood
with his shotgun out front. Sometimes
he wouldn’t come home, or he’d walk
into the house with his shirt bloody.
When we left, my mother didn’t want
money. Not that we would have gone,
but that other woman didn’t even invite us
to the funeral. Man, I bet Yvette’s children
have children. Lord knows what’s happened
to Chrissy now that she’s too old to dance.


Copyright © 2020 by Amaud Jamaul Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 24, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem is a meditation on how strangers can become family, and how family can become strangers.”
Amaud Jamaul Johnson


Amaud Jamaul Johnson

Amaud Jamaul Johnson’s third poetry collection is Imperial Liquor (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020). He directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Date Published: 2020-02-24

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