Stephanie Johnson

A Breakup Letter to Ohio

I left you as you preened,
proud as a mud hen and out
painting the town a rusty shade
of red.

Back then, life was
a destination full
of quicksand, the
only way out was
on the skyrocket
trajectory of an
actor or astronaut,
pulled out of that
viscous sucking
pool of automotive

You held the rest
of us tight, but a
few dreamt of
other climes, our
souls flayed by
windchill and
our families.

Remember that well-
meaning guidance
counselor urging me
to marry you so

She tried to fit me
for a pair of Red
Wing boots and a
mortgage in a
material that
didn’t suit.

And so I broke up
with you, my heart
frozen, lost in a
yellowed corn maze,
its beauty best
observed from far

Perhaps astronauts
too shed a tear as
they regarded your
lonely visage from a
hundred miles
high— close and far
enough to know how
precious the escape

But gravity pulls all of us back
— even them —
to the old, rusted out
license plate
rattling down I-75.
The astronaut whispers
as he reads the words
barely visible
at the top of the plate:
“Ohio, the heart of it all.”

Note on the art: Stephanie Johnson’s mixed media letters are from her original version of the ‘zine, “Break Up Letter to Ohio”; a later version of her zine can be found here.