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Clade Song 7

Science of Transposition and Cancellation

We’ve come to expect hard times in this city
where the wolf sings among the cantaloupes
and ghost-like faces appear in the aisles,
little mouse of a muscle moving up and down,
bending our efforts, kneeling wages.
To ostracize a villain we write his name
on potsherds of broken piggy banks, though
our hands tremble and our lips turn blue.
Something in the air grates against a market.

Speaking of other things, the divers brought home
biscuits, twice-cooked, and abalone we meant
to eat in peace, but the debt of being, so easily
mistaken for appetite, went back and back,
and the meal was called off. Leave it to your ex
to live perfectly well without you. Even so,
the naked mole rat lives underground forty years,
free of cancer. And there’s no accounting
for human calculators, prime number savants.

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John Johnson’s poems have appeared in many print and online journals, most recently in frankmatter, The Inflectionist Review, Sky Island Journal and The Turnip Truck(s). Currently he is co-translating the poetry of Ulalume González de León. Yu can reach him at