Sjohnna McCray

A Slight Reprieve



Stopped at a red light, we watch a portrait
unfold and rise like the scene in a child’s
pop-up book. First, the gardener in
overalls with gnarled, arthritic hands
that sleep in his lap after years of use.
Rose petals, are the down of a woman’s face.
The soil warmed by the sun holds close
like the ease of dancing hips or the heavy
breath of a retired lover. Surrounded
by his wealth—azaleas en masse: white,
pink and a fuchsia that singes the yard,
his boots are settled. Stopped at a red light,
I fear and consider what your future might be—

the bloom of a sweet, unremarkable life


without me.

Odd Love Poem



Looking over from the passenger seat,
I notice—I’ve married an old white man.
When did this happen?   At the Dairy Queen,
he says, Two dollars for an ice cream cone?!
I could have gone to McDonalds for less.
How much is it without the cone? The young
girl at the drive thru window tilts her head
and stares at us.      He has the uncanny ability
to make polo shirts seem semiformal
and likes to sit in a booth by himself
eating a breakfast biscuit.      I always
thought race would be the death of me.
Not so much from vitriol but the strange
floating, the treading water of being
two races. I settled into loneliness
like a book no one reads—despite my
excellent cover and common but workman
like font.       At night I ask myself, how did he
unearth me or how did I salvage him?
From across the bar, I imagine this
plays out the same way in multiple bars
in infinite timelines: a nod of the head,
a greeting to say—youth’s currency
is better spent together than alone.


SJOHNNA McCRAY earned his MFA from the University of Virginia. His work has been published in several magazines, including Brilliant Corners, Chicago Quarterly Review, Gargoyle, The African American Review, Salamander, and The Valparaiso Poetry Review. In 2015, he received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. McCray lives and teaches in Georgia.