Julia Norton – Cipher for Seventh Grade

Julia Norton

Cipher for Seventh Grade

Through the bus window,
farmland bowing under hot breath.
The postcard barn, the rough-hewn fence
at dawn- sunlight sifting through a cluster of trees and
gleaming off the side of a backhoe.

My thighs stuck to the vinyl seat. Legs stiff,
shoes on the gum-studded floor.
The bus lurched to a stop and my limbs
jerked into the aisle, half-numb.

Late night in the shower, hair washing
down the drain in a flood of strawberry foam.

I had learned I was topography from the neck down.
That my bare legs were pins, my figure a grenade.
Were I yanked by the ankle, the artifacts of my girlhood
would detonate and the shrieking would deafen every man
within a thousand miles. Sex would be an evaporation of my matter.

Walking home, late August, Carolina.
The skins of worms baking in the sun
’til brown and brittle, littering the new sidewalks like
the shells of peanuts after ballgames.


Julia Norton is from North Carolina by way of Rockville, Maryland. She is a poet, blogger, and podcaster. Her poetry has also appeared in Rust + Moth and Haikuniverse. You can find her discussing the writing life at Voyage and Verse on iTunes, and talking up her adopted hometown at thetriangleguide.com.

Issue 5 • Next: Catherine Weiss – nonbinosaurus rex