tatiana johnson

silhouette-woman-profile                                      mothership

when your mother tells you she has a mental health disorder
swallow decades of knowing deep into your feet
remind yourself what stability looks like
force your legs to take root in any place
but the trembling of a woman who loves you like a vortex

she’s made you captain of a sinking ship
while she lays paralyzed by dark

you are sailor
choke your tears
carry your breath with urgency

remind yourself to stare at the horizon
hold in the sick of the ship rocking intensely
without you

call yourself anchor
shape your arms into lighthouses
remember that sometimes mothers need saving by little girls brave
enough to stare deep into wallowing oceans

you are sailor
floating against echoes of voices speaking to her
that you can never hear

when she says: schizophrenia
let splashes of stigma
catch you off guard
landing on your skin

watch her become invisible
a ghost ship moving
amongst the living
no one pays attention to the ones
talking to themselves
when she holds your hand
forget its weight
remember the cold of her condition

hold in your breath
drown this secret of yourself
rising from the woman who made you

you have loved her like a crisis
for as long as you remember
held hands with Poseidon

felt her mind quake
loving a steel moving thing
hard empty vessel
a life vest type of tenderness
leaving you alone at sea

when your mother confesses her diagnosis
to you­­ tells you she’s angry about her cognitive wrestling
resist steering into isolation

get enough courage to yell at God
like most men do when they’re shipwrecked
when told that the thing they love
is destined for the bottom of the ocean

ask for miracles­ – survive
hear your heart beckoning her
hold your mother to your chest
steer this ship­­ carry her home


she asks me if I know Him
she is gray and bred from Southern hymnals
her fingers stained with oil for blessing
for sharing the good news with her fallen family

her prayers are a hearth
they kindle in the cosmic
like fire­ she leaves their ashes around the house

do you know him?
he will tell you which way to go
girl­ don’t give up on him

her words fall from the cliff of her lips
flailing with feeling­ she pleads it
wants so hard for the world to believe it
for her children to believe

We are his children she says
we are her children

damned, saved.


screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-9-24-27-pmTatiana is a black woman writer from Boston who also works in photography and film. Her writing explores trauma, especially inherited trauma and what it means to truly heal. With a passion for mental health awareness, she feels especially good when someone tells her that they felt something by reading her work. She also hopes you smiled today. You can find some of her other work in Madcap Review, Broad! Magazine, Third Visions (zine) or her personal website.


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