Shelter Lullaby

Praise song for the dancers.

silhouette of women dancing

Face buried in her warm bread smell,

I cannonballed into dreams of flying;

she kept watch with one good eye

trained on roaches in the ceiling.

As I cannonballed into the next flight

she said Just a little while,

good eye trained on roaches in the ceiling,

in the room beneath the church of the sisters.

Just a little while, she said, 

bandage over other eye

applied by sisters after landing,

and changed it when she thought I could not see.

Bandage over blinded eye,

she left the bed when I slept

to change it somewhere where I could not see,

and then she danced.

She left the bed when I slept

for a basement where music played

and then she danced

with the women in a circle, and they laughed.

In a basement where music played

danced Leti, and Patrice, Maria and Janae,

these women in a circle and they laughed,

away from the men they had survived.

Danced Gina and Kira, Shondra and Renee,

and my mother, and I, for the time being,

away from the men we had survived —

and you should have seen her dance.


This one first appeared in High Shelf, 2019.

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I keep watch and listen, mostly in dark places.

7 thoughts on “Shelter Lullaby”

      1. If you don’t already know her, Susan Faludi’s writing may interest you. I would recommend her “Backlash” to you, but even more “Stiffed” if you are interested in what happened to us men and why we are the way we are. You see, the problem is that we are ill-equipped for social life—I mean, us men—or at least the majority of us are. And this situation badly affects not only women. Just look at the number of suicides, especially among divorced middle-aged men. A strong man turns out to be an extremely vulnerable creature. The problem is that we have a problem asking for help because, in our culture, it is a sign of weakness, and we are conditioned from childhood not to show weakness. And as counterintuitive as it may seem, the role of women in this situation can be crucial. Of course, it’s one thing if women extend a helping hand to us, but it’s another if we men are willing and able to reach out to that helping hand. I fear that without good will on both sides and a lot of perseverance, we will still be stuck in the current situation.

      2. Wow, Maciej, thank you so much for this recommendation. I don’t know Susan Faludi’s work and look forward to finding it. I love your insight here. Some of my favorite people on the planet are strong men unafraid to be vulnerable, and I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the narrow boxes that so many men find themselves in. For this reason, I am especially moved whenever I find someone willing to ask the kinds of questions and explore the terrain that you are doing here. This seems like one of the critical areas of growth for our time. Deep bow to you, friend.

      3. I’m truly honoured, Stacey. However, you have to know that I’m one of the struggling and have my own demons to fight, unfortunately. But that something to talk about in a space not open to the public. You can find traces of this in some of my poems, though. You are more than welcome to visit or contact me via my website if you would like our conversation to continue, there is a contact form there.

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