Brianna Johnson, excerpts from the novel, Fire Sale

I have legs in the ruins.

Someday I can marry and scatter skinned babies, meaning I bought them their skins, and taught them to fortify me, and for them to place me in narrow places (in bed) (in fire) (in jam jar). Rebelliousness tingled out of me like milk, praying for immodesty and the three holes cut into your bedroom wall fit my mouth. Born blamed on a body lying naked on 800 dollar coats and traded for scrap metal that doesn’t fit in the bored holes. I have threatening hands to lay on you to take possession back of my leg and my arm. Property-less and rebellious I’m left to stand on my feet with the docility of a dead woman and the children of a devil. When all evil can do is suckle like love.

Nursing is too much like work. Poor little mite. The idea of sewing a child to you. Twine.

When the dead are babies and have to stitch their own throats and crank as far as heaven is, in a dumb waiter, chains and a leather strap. U-needled and fiddle black wire. Don’t you know babies never blame their mothers, and become things other than babies. Babies crawl like toads into the forests.

Hagar, it is the race that is set before me.

Whole speeches disfigure their female bodies. Air the house, visit the shrine, articulate the dwelling place. Abandoned as adults, like an Indian. Lodi, lover, sexter, non-biological family and those “families” you send naked photos to. I’m sure my vagina’s on a billboard somewhere, where flesh meets the choice of Life. My surprise! I came across a magnificent willingness to be a scandal. Me as a human. Me as a perpetual virgin shoving sweet smelling things up in there. At best, I may blur to a male. I am new at this sexting. I am new at this cunt infancy. A closed portal, how can we fear that? In league with the unwedded, the Virgin Mistakes, too. An empire on all sides, seen from side to side. She and the son on her lap, but what if you removed him and she was cored? Shaved. Hooded and a body reunited with Gabriel. What can be seen? Her risen son. My risen cushion. Ocher otherworldliness. Amazement wears off when you’ve shown it so many times. A tendency to consider stirring the waters and there goes your positive role in Bethlehem. I was reared in a woman’s house, she must’ve worried how I’d turn out. It is a dangerous way of life.

Gethsemane, he’s gone. The surprise comes on. For all his engines, bent and swarmed, I kept time in prayer and miracle – the sad way. I’ve absolutely crushed the lilies to the ground. Momma calls it hasty like killing the bull in the bullfight. All women are wild except the ones you buy from a store. I’ve been well apart, looked far enough, and not up to loosening the nail. When the wave went by, it was destruction and genuine. What gives me the right to go into grottoes is my headdress is bigger than yours. Too thin my artless eyes have to grope in daybreak, and how far? Stay to the board, the dart to which, with what, all men pray. Heaven will tell it. Burn it in a sad way like Hell into the mortal chest of my world’s companion. Enough of the drunken riot though I like it. His race shines like a chime in this screened tide and a snuff of wheat. Stay in this largeness, I need you high to dip my lineage into. Knelt, in compressed forms. I’m not going to lick you like your mother. There’s the deepest black and the deepest green surveying me in curving motions, roving flashbulbs in lighthouses, synchronized swimmers, and stretchers full of handling devices dropping down like men to the concrete in the shipyards. We’ve mastered it all vigil-hung. Liquid resources pour, we dilate in trusty arms. Man and land. Woman and water. Odor and baking.

 

Wicked things. Taxidermy.

Finding Daddy a costume to go as Ed Gein, that Wisconsin woman killer. We went to the thrift shop, in the men’s section, to find flannel. Ed Gein’s face was stubbled and dirty-looking and he dressed like a normal farmer, a concreter, any man with work boots. The kind you touch and dust falls. We found wool-lined flannel and it was warm and fit so well. Daddy didn’t have the nerve to carry the scythe with him and gave up the idea altogether to make Ed Gein a Tea-Partier. But he wore the costume all winter, because it was so warm and bought more flannel when it went on sale.

Leveler beveller Deviler Daddy jibed WAIT FOR A BETTER THING TO COME ALONG. Blood is only a part of it if there’s a murder and why would you be so surprised someone got so killed in here?

Born lowly in the hole. Tornadoes hit yesterday like birds flocking together.

I am sitting in the plastic bench seat and Momma is waiting with me. Daddy and my brother are out in the woods bringing up some deer and it is important to be quiet.

There is a sense of waiting. I hate sitting in a van not running at night. I would usually start to cry when we were outside Gram’s house and waiting for her stop giving hellos to my family. The blue van had a poor heater and the overhead was blocked out with the bodies of bugs that had collected and petrified, sliding in the bowl of the light. Daddy hasn’t got a deer in a long time and some take whatever they can get. He has moral dilemmas on the sort of deer that should be taken. Too many does in Wisconsin according to the DNR, too many orphaned fawns, a buck with a shortish tine, young bucks, swamp bucks. So, we hardly ever get the Worcestershire smell of jerky in the house. The fillets of dark blackish meat dripping with a molasses sauce and burning. Momma would put them straight on the oven rack laid careful on their sides like a hundred dead deer on a pole.

That cold deer smell not a bloody thing but an outside thing like the taste of venison is distant and staticky — the far gone of homelessness — on the bus – awful cause you ate it before. You can’t drag her backwards you gotta wrap a rope around her head. Let me know when you get her hanging. Dress her out. Colder than the boy.

The hunters on the land coming in in blaze black. And the horns attack, fact out the meat from the man. Farm doors bell apron hands and blood is dinner.

Cyclopsis. Bare, sweet, and fuel. There, skin and fuel. There, and fuel. There, sweet and fuel. Skinned, and fueled. I sing mercury. I sing sweet reich. Milked, beauty below under it, anybody. Mechanics of girl without a body. We dig trenches before we’re shot down in it. No man is a furnace. The bird waits in the egg and speaks upon his marble harmonizing all evil youth. Burning, twanging, wraith-scraping so foul. This vision is unfit for building. Mad sad what is happening here? I can’t say, more weight upon WHAT CRIME IT IS to be me. Ministers kissed me as I scold them. Buzz off jabberwocky. It changes to a Saturday evening. Hell itself. And blessedness. Bit by bit I come whistling the dirty air. All women are maniacs.

 

__________________________________________

Brianna Johnson is the author of Fire Sale, an experimental prose manifesto detailing the economic decline of love, the body, and America in 18 movements. She has earned her B.F.A. and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College where she was mentored by, among others, Rebecca Brown, Douglas Martin, Bhanu Kapil, and Darcey Steinke. Her work has been featured in the HazMat Literary Review and Spout Magazine. Brianna lives in New Prague, Minnesota and works in the medical field.