October 3, 2016 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION


Elizabeth Johnston



Women on the Pavement

(“Maze, 47, was driving home after a visit to Helena, Montana, on Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.,,,She was at a rest stop and a suspect approached her and hit her in the head and put her in the trunk”– from “Abducted woman called husband from trunk of car before her death,” CNN Sep. 8 2016).



4:30 am.

I am woman

on the pavement

stretching calves like pistons, long and strong,

slicing through the still and humid air, arms slashing

at the dark,  head driving forward, seizing and forcing oxygen

into these lungs, this living body, my body,


Her body.

Vigilant I search the spaces between trees,

point my headlamp at the shadows, speed up to pass the dumpster,

ears ever pricked for telltale thump from trunks of passing cars,

and in my mind rehearse the strike and thrust of self-defense.

Reminded I am woman

on the pavement


and this alone is risk.


I do not mean to make a metaphor of her death.

Would not turn that trunk to symbol

but for all the cramped and silent graves

into which this world would force us

if it could.


So I tell my daughters:

Be women on the pavement


but carry your keys like weapons,

don’t park next to vans,

hold your bladder if you travel


and when you run, imagine being chased.

Run faster.











Elizabeth Johnston

Elizabeth Johnston has published works of social protest in many literary journals and edited collections, including the 2016 anthology Veils, Halos, and Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women. Her poems and plays have been nominated for Pushcarts and Best of the Net awards. You can read more about Elizabeth and her work at her writers group’s website.


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