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 Jul 2019 Johnnie Rae
I never called it ****,
the events of the night the gin had made us hazy
and the drugs had us reckless.
The half hour you spent strumming me
like some pawn shop guitar
Suffocating me in the sheets
which were covered in the filth of your former lovers.

I never called it ****.

The way your hands had rudely ripped
my previously untouched skin
and your mouth devoured my innocent lips.
Never thought much of the way you had told me to be quiet
while I whispered for you to stop
because I'd never done this before
and it was painful
and I wept.
Because you had warned that I would wake the others
and I was embarrassed
and you had made me *****.

I never called it ****.

Never let the repetition of your phrases sink in too much
as you told me it was fine
and it was okay
that I'd like it.
I never thought too hard.
Because you moved too fast
and the room was spinning
and I gave in to waiting for it to be over.
And when you had gotten too tired of hearing me whimper
and my pleading had become obnoxious
you sighed an angry "**** this"
and stomped off to the bathroom to finish yourself,
after commanding I put my clothes back on,
And find somewhere else to sleep,
I stumbled across your ***** basement to where the others slept
and collapsed hiding silently in the sinkholes of your couch,
Listening to your grunts before the light came on and you passed out
avoiding the stains of my youth on your sheets.

And I never called it ****.

In the morning you drove me home
making little effort to hide your disgust in my failure to get you off
While I looked out the car window at all the houses I had grown up next to,
None of which looked familiar any more
attempted to ignore the stinging of the poisonous scars you had left behind
pretending that my body wasn't covered
in the scratches and bruises of your insincere actions.
And when we arrived outside my parents' house
after an eternity of painful silence
you didn't speak merely
grunted at my departure
and I snuck quietly through the front door to the shower
where I scrubbed until the marks from your fingernails
became indistinguishable from the skin I had rubbed raw
until it bled
trying to convince myself
that I had eliminated all the remnants of your scent
and the dirt from your actions.

But I never called it ****.
 Oct 2017 Johnnie Rae
i keep tellin myself you don't have to
feel that way, you just gotta find the
right thing, the right song, the right man
and every time I've been on the couch
at the fair, on the floor with
an arm draped around me
and his fingers tracing bittersweet
intentions on my side--
I'm thinking of the  back of your head
of you fingers with the cuticles you never pushed back
of the birthmarks beneath your arms
and of a girl's body that i've never seen naked

because i collapse in on myself and say it's not time
and scientists say that black holes are things from which
light cannot escape but
I am going to let it matter
so when he leans in for a kiss
and i see your hands on her hips
shoulders bunched up in the cold
you're standing out in the snow
truck growling in the driveway
I say it's okay,
i am not out to
bandage the wounds
that need to breathe
I told her I am just
going to let it hurt

i am just going to let it matter.
(c) Brooke Otto

written for a poetry slam, i don't like it until i read it out loud.
 Feb 2017 Johnnie Rae
he jokes about tuscaloosa
and being buried in dixie
shot in his truck near the border
or set on fire for a better purpose
had gone down in a tomato fight
somewhere in texas,

and when he's mad he dredges up
all the things he secretly hates about me
but'll ne'er admit, 'cause sometimes he doesn't
even know what he's feeling, has got all his
spirit out in ten arms searching for the best
way to put down one sentence--

he's pretty scary when he's angry
looks like might just lash out or
shoot through my redwood patio
'specially with the threat of his truck
runnin' in the background, rumbling
in the driveway ready to take him away--

he used all my favorite things to get inside
but starts to take them away one by one
I tell my mom same, same cause it's
the same story, different page, different chapter
same book, same shelf, same dust

he once said I was what he was tryin' to get back to
told me he was takin' his mom to church
once brought up the Lord in a dim light
but now he don't see the point
I'll tell you what,

I'll tell you *what
(c) Brooke Otto 2017

pretty much.
 Feb 2017 Johnnie Rae
you are not yet
a welcome passenger -
less like a scar that becomes opalescent,
a trinket of survival,

and more like an embarrassing disease.
i stay inside on the days you show up worst,
when i cannot hide you.

i become a self contained weather system
in my bedroom -
my fury and shame
condensating on the window,
the sadness fracturing my floorboards,
the sadness fracturing my skin.
outside, you are quiet

and therefore unnoticed.
convincing people you exist is like
being a conspiracy theorist
in a room of skeptics:
they have not seen me

thrashing and formless, floating to ceilings
and sinking below floors, and they
have not seen you
beckoning to the men,
displaying hollowness
as if it could substitute for lust,

and they have not seen
the dark ages of our history, the pills
the blood the hands
that hold me open and empty.

your ****** threats amount to nothing
because i always find a way to outsmart you.
and i am
painfully and unsteadily

in spite of you
and with you.
 Jan 2017 Johnnie Rae
the air in your house is hushed
as if waiting for an echo.
shadows pool where
the slate grey light can’t reach,
behind hanging plants and
work debris, hardhats and boots.
the dirt-iron scent of man
hangs low in the air.
it is nothing like how i remember,
when you made us take our shoes
off at the door and kept every
surface clean. your backyard
is a giant garden,
carefully plotted: your sleeping children
buried beneath mulch and frost.
your bedroom is where
the sediment of your life has gathered:
bibles and sleeping pills,
leafy detritus of old receipts
and credit card statements.
i bury my face in your pillow.
soon the scent of you will be aired out,
your things sorted through.
i am not ready.
standing on its end on a shelf
is a lone bullet.
i wonder if you left it for me,
sibling of the one that entered
and exited your skull.
your house and your things
and your money and your memory,
left in my name,
was the best apology you could give,
and i do not want it.
 Jan 2017 Johnnie Rae
I can smell your laughter on my skin for days
And your smile lights my room long after you've gone

And I've been homesick every where
Since I turned seventeen
But I don't have that yearning lately,

You are lavender walls
And cherrywood floors

You are warm vanilla cuddles
And ruby red grapefruit kisses

And I am warm in the dead of winter,

And I am home inside of myself

And I've been trying to find the
Words to tell you,

That my heart skips rocks
Over the lake you've laid down

And I'm jumping in puddles
When you start to rain

I'm admitting things I've kept
A secret
From myself
With your soft hands
gently wrapped
Around my throat

I count my blessings
When the sunlight swallows my bedroom

I'm not a zombie
Rising from a coffin

I'm a kid
Excited to begin

Every day

I'm excited to begin

Please don't leave

I drop you off in your gravel driveway
And I feel whole the whole way home

Please don't leave

I touch your jawbone
And my teeth are
No longer daggers
Inside my gums

The letters that fall
From my tongue
Are rose petals,
Tea leafs,
Where they once were
And dirt
And blood

Please don't leave me
Spitting up charcoal again

I cough cocoa powder

I am getting younger every day

I cry maple syrup

I am getting safer every day

I bleed pomegranate

I am getting stronger every day

Please stay
 Dec 2016 Johnnie Rae
Last time you leaned against my bedroom wall,
You told me that I'm just "not enough" anymore,

But I've been thinking a lot about that lately
And I've determined
I'm not enough

I'm more than enough

I'm too much

You can't hold my hips
In your hands

They're too wide

Maybe I sprawl out too far
In your bed

My heart doesn't fit right in my chest

It's bigger than yours

Bigger than her's

And maybe
My voice is too heavy

It cuts the silence with too much force

You need less of me

While you're gone off
I'll learn
How to whisper

How to leave
Before I'm finished

How to curl into a ball,

How to make my limbs short,

My body small

While you're in space

I'll take up less space

I'll stop skipping steps,

Jumping off of staircases
Just because I can...

I'll be gentle,



I'll fade into the background

And when you feel like
Leaning against my bedroom wall again

I won't stare into your chest
With eyes that burn holes
Through galaxies...

I'll just tilt my head
And look at your feet

I'll make you feel


I'll be small







And then
You'll stand
Beside my

And then
Only then

You'll say

"I loved her anyway"
 Nov 2016 Johnnie Rae
 Nov 2016 Johnnie Rae
while you were eating
cherry pie that sunday
after i reached for your
hand and your fingers
didn't curl around mine--

i took to the trees behind the cabin
and stayed the mossy grove buried
in this golden scratch
the neighbor's conversation downwind
about the mountain lion they'd spotted
and the spiritual sort of fear I felt with
my eyes closed, the mechanical click
of my own heartbeat, how things
used to flow and now they only

i was singing songs to call you out,
like you did the first time, when you
came up around the hillside and
followed me a ways out--
softly at first and then no more,
replaced by the force that came
upon me, where suddenly I was
uprooting trees, picking the most
desolate, gnarled aspens--unhinging
their roots to press my heel into their
soft bases, hulking forward and watching
them stretch out and out and out--

I found old yarn and tied
it for later, to find, to untie
to hope for second chances
I left the copse and you were

eating cherry pie on the porch
rummaging through coolers
oil sloshing through your bones
dragon fire in your blood
hard-headed over puerile matters
over your time, over the weeks
staunchly grounded into your own
wild western ways,

The duck's back, the bear's pelt
You've been roaming alone in the forests
As the beasts do, the lost, the frightened,
Admiring the darkness of your own shadow
The way it draws and casts away,
Doubly conflicted of your nature that
Mostly takes and takes and takes
Bears and
Men and
(C) brooke otto 2016

Started this a few weeks ago. I dunno if it's finished.
 Nov 2016 Johnnie Rae
bury me
 Nov 2016 Johnnie Rae
slip like silt,
just as you always did,
into smooth discordance-
leaving knives disguised
as words synonymous with love
pressed against my throat.

fold like origami cranes
and take flight when
the monsters emerge
from the spaces between
the floorboards,
when you look at me
and see a stranger.

I don't blame you.

romanticizing the images
of clenched fists
and bloodshot eyes,
I twist around my vices
like a serpent.

I wanted the idea.
You and I, nothing too grand;
just this simple love,
the likes of which
you could feel in your cells
and in your bones.

I wanted a love
where you'd bury me
so that the ache
of missing you
wouldn't sit inside
my chest like a stone.

And now we talk
like old friends,
and you still look at me
with that smile
and it makes me queasy,
how far removed these bodies are
from the ones we shared
in convoluted memories.

I don't blame you.
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