Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Quote of the Day

Do not doubt your own basic goodness. In spite of all confusion and fear, you are born with a heart that knows what is just, loving, and beautiful.
JACK KORNFIELD

Small Craft Talk Warning

All poetry is about hope.
A scarecrow walks into a bar.
An abandoned space station falls to earth.
When probing the monster’s brain,
you’re probably probing your own.
A beautiful woman becomes a ghost.
I hope I never miscalculate the dosage
that led to the infarction
of my lab rabbit again.
All poetry is a form of hope.
Not certain, just actual
like love and other traffic circles.
I cried on that airplane too,
midwest patchwork below
like a board game on which
mighty forces kick apart the avatars.
I always wanted to be the racecar
but usually ended up a thumbtack.
When I was young, sitting in a tree
counted as preparation and later
maybe a little whoopie in the morgue.
So go ahead, thaw the alien, break
the pentagram but watch out for
the institutional hood ornaments.
It’s not a museum, it’s a hive.
The blood may be fake
but the bleeding’s not.

~Dean Young – 1955

Gratitude by Barbara Crooker

Gratitude

This week, the news of the world is bleak, another war
grinding on, and all these friends down with cancer,
or worse, a little something long term that they won’t die of
for twenty or thirty miserable years—
And here I live in a house of weathered brick, where a man
with silver hair still thinks I’m beautiful. How many times
have I forgotten to give thanks? The late day sun shines
through the pink wisteria with its green and white leaves
as if it were stained glass, there’s an old cherry tree
that one lucky Sunday bloomed with a rainbow:
cardinals, orioles, goldfinches, blue jays, indigo buntings,
and my garden has tiny lettuces just coming up,
so perfect they could make you cry: Green Towers,
Red Sails, Oak Leaf. For this is May, and the whole world
sings, gleams, as if it were basted in butter, and the air’s
sweet enough to send a diabetic into shock—
And at least today, all the parts of my body are working,
the sky’s clear as a china bowl, leaves murmur their leafy chatter,
finches percolate along. I’m doodling around this page,
know sorrow’s somewhere beyond the horizon, but still, I’m riffing
on the warm air, the wingbeats of my lungs that can take this all in,
flush the heart’s red peony, then send it back without effort or thought.
And the trees breathe in what we exhale, clap their green hands
in gratitude, bend to the sky.

First published in Poetry East, then in Line Dance (Word Press, 2008).

The Creative Drive

Photo by Tamra Parker

The Northeast has lost millions of poems,
reducing the canopy. Just a few days ago,
high winds knocked a poem onto a power line

A recent study found that poems increased
the sale price of a home by close to $9,000.
The years, however, have not been kind to poems.

a few blocks from my house.
I had not expected to lose so many at once.
“We’ve created a system that is not healthy

for poems,” said someone. Over the next thirty years,
there won’t be any poems where there are overhead wires.
Some poems may stay as a nuisance,

as a gorgeous marker of time.

~ by Catherine Barnett

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day

I’m a huge fan of Nina Simone. My favorite song? Feelin’ Good. I like it in all its iterations I guess. Most people probably have forgotten all about Nina’s version and skipped right to Michael Buble. That’s OK. I don’t think she would mind. Nor would she care about the Muse version. I like that one a lot. Who sings it isn’t nearly as important to me as the lyrics.

I started really loving this song when I was 45. I liked it just fine before that, but when I was 45 I came down with a little bout of Leukemia. Music has always been huge in my life, songs associated with people, places, events.  Feelin’ Good got associated with my healing, my being alive.  It was a new dawn, a new day, and I was, after months of treatment, feelin’ good.

Photo by Tamra Parker

Here I am, years later, still in love with this song.  Still associating it with the thrill of being alive.  Because, well, I am still thrilled to be alive.

K and I were sitting here talking the other day about how weird it was that it was going to be 2019.  How it seemed impossible in some way, that it was nearly 2019.  I don’t know why it seemed like such a big deal because, after all, it’d been 2018 for nearly a year, but somehow it did.  Somehow time has taken a leap.  The idea that 2019 was nearly here, and I’m still here, and though I’m older than I used to be, I’m not as old as I’m going to get.  If you’d asked me in 1983 when I graduated from high school what I’d be doing in 2019 I wouldn’t have been able to even imagine it, being so far in the future and all.   And now here we are, so far in the future and all.  Weird.  Not bad.  Just weird.

Friends of ours recently asked us to attend a party.  They asked everyone who was invited to bring a bottle of booze, an appetizer, and quote or song or piece of writing to be read aloud and shared. I think it was meant as a sort of send off to the year passing and a greeting of hope and inspiration heading into the new year.  Cool idea.  Sadly, we couldn’t go, but I was thinking about what I would’ve shared if we had. 

There are a lot of quotes I could’ve shared.  I’m a quote person.  Just see the inspirations page of this blog for proof of that.  The fact that I get nervous and shy at times might spur the use of a quote.  I probably would share a quote like this…  “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  ~  W.B. Yeats 

I could’ve shared a poem.  I’m a lover of all things poetic and have been reading and writing poetry since I was a wee sprout, sometime near 1983 I’d say.  I was 17 then, and graduating from high school, so my poems were very broody.   I might’ve shared a poem at the party if I happened upon or could think of one I thought might be inspirational.  Maybe the E.E. Cummings “I thank you God” poem…

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

 
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)


how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

 
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
 

 e e cummings 

(in ‘complete poems 1904 – 1962’)

Or maybe something by Pablo Neruda, Charles Bukowski, or The Type, by Sarah Kay.

If I had my wits about me I might’ve thought of something profound or witty or inspirational to say all on my own.  Possible, if I’d had my wits about me.  Sometimes they are vacationing and leave me searching for the right words, the right feeling, the right way to say what I want to.  

Weston is currently crying over K’s shoulder as she eats her morning oatmeal.  It’s the first day of the new year.  He likes oatmeal.  Sometimes all that matters is the hope that you’ll get the last bits of oatmeal left in the bowl.  That someone will remember you like them, and that getting them will make your day.  That those bits are what will bring you joy right at this moment.  And maybe the story of Weston and the oatmeal bowl is the only profound thing worth sharing.   It’s the simple things in life that are worth everything.  Finding moments of joy.  Moments of happiness.  Moments of peace.  We don’t need a lot to make us happy and joyful.  Bits of oatmeal left in the bottom of the bowl will do.  So I’ll say this… go out there and find your bits, whatever they are for you.  See them for what they are, for what they mean to you.  Relish them.

K has finished eating and Weston is now licking the bowl.  His crying has stopped and he’s blissfully enjoying this tiny moment of joy.  I’d say, like Nina, he’s feelin’ good.  A pretty great way to start 2019.

Do You Have Insomnia? No? Then You Should Get It!

I just read the best short story!  On top of great storytelling, it was free!  Click the image above and you will be whisked away to Mary Widdicks’ website where you can sign up to get it and read it as well.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!  It’s a great read.  She is an up an coming writer who you will be on the scene and talked about for years to come.  

Courage Doesn’t Always Roar…

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Photo by TJ Parker

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at
the end of the day whispering, ‘I will try again tomorrow.”  – 
Mary Anne Radmacher

Poem: How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This

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Photo by TJ Parker

dear reader, with our heels digging into the good mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown & lord knows I have been called by what I look like more than I have been called by what I actually am & I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this exercise. which, too, is an attempt at fashioning something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anything worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics arrive to the tongue first. say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out
grandfather
clock. he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent
heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning,
you could scatter his whole mind across a field.

~Hanif Abdurraqib

About This Poem

“I was at a reading shortly after the election, and the poet (who was black) was reading gorgeous poems, which had some consistent and exciting flower imagery. A woman (who was white) behind me—who thought she was whispering to her neighbor—said ‘How can black people write about flowers at a time like this?’ I thought it was so absurd in a way that didn’t make me angry but made me curious. What is the black poet to be writing about ‘at a time like this’ if not to dissect the attractiveness of a flower—that which can arrive beautiful and then slowly die right before our eyes? I thought flowers were the exact thing to write about at a time like this, so I began this series of poems, all with the same title. I thought it was much better to grasp a handful of different flowers, put them in a glass box, and see how many angles I could find in our shared eventual demise.” — Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib is the author of The Crown Ain’t Worth Much (Button Poetry, 2016), his first poetry collection, which was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. He is also the author of the essay collection They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Two Dollar Radio, 2017). He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Rudy Francisco – Complainers

Exactly this…

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

“There is no small act of kindness. Every compassionate act makes large the world.” —Mary Anne Radmacher

 

Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World

Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World

For the community of Newtown, Connecticut,
where twenty students and six educators lost their
lives to a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary
School, December 14, 2012

Now the bells speak with their tongues of bronze.
Now the bells open their mouths of bronze to say:
Listen to the bells a world away. Listen to the bell in the ruins
of a city where children gathered copper shells like beach glass,
and the copper boiled in the foundry, and the bell born
in the foundry says: I was born of bullets, but now I sing
of a world where bullets melt into bells. Listen to the bell
in a city where cannons from the armies of the Great War
sank into molten metal bubbling like a vat of chocolate,
and the many mouths that once spoke the tongue of smoke
form the one mouth of a bell that says: I was born of cannons,
but now I sing of a world where cannons melt into bells.

Listen to the bells in a town with a flagpole on Main Street,
a rooster weathervane keeping watch atop the Meeting House,
the congregation gathering to sing in times of great silence.
Here the bells rock their heads of bronze as if to say:
Melt the bullets into bells, melt the bullets into bells.
Here the bells raise their heavy heads as if to say:
Melt the cannons into bells, melt the cannons into bells.
Here the bells sing of a world where weapons crumble deep
in the earth, and no one remembers where they were buried.
Now the bells pass the word at midnight in the ancient language
of bronze, from bell to bell, like ships smuggling news of liberation
from island to island, the song rippling through the clouds.

Now the bells chime like the muscle beating in every chest,
heal the cracks in the bell of every face listening to the bells.
The chimes heal the cracks in the bell of the moon.
The chimes heal the cracks in the bell of the world.

~Martin Espada

From the Author:

About This Poem

“As the dedication indicates, on December 14, 2012, a gunman killed twenty students and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I wrote this poem for the National Children’s Day event Within Our Reach, held at the Newtown Congregational Church on June 8, 2013—less than six months after the tragedy. The ‘city where children gathered copper shells like beach glass’ is Tirana, Albania, site of the Bell of Peace; the city ‘where cannons from the armies of the Great War / sank into molten metal’ is Rovereto, Italy, site of the Campana dei Caduti (Bell of the Fallen) or Maria Dolens bell. The ‘town with a flagpole on Main Street’ is, of course, Newtown.”

—Martín Espada

Ode To Alternatives

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

Hey Kevin, I know
I’m always talking,
but look at those
two little boys who
don’t know any better –
they’re using a king
as a pawn, a pawn
as a knight, a queen
as a bishop-and isn’t
not knowing the rules
just beautiful?
Because really,
where’s the joy
in shouldering night
into workday
when we can be carpenters
of unmade things,
flailing our hammers
whichever way we please
in the dark? I’m sorry
I’m talking too much
for this chess game,
but I get nervous.
Are there people out there
who say we’re dangerous?
When the sun echoes
off the thousands
of windshields
locked in the morning commute,
do you sometimes feel
like we’re dressed for a party
we couldn’t ever hope
to be invited to?
Do the idling engines
deafen you?
Kevin, are you sure you want
to trade your knight
for a rook? Why is it
that once we take
our hand off of it,
we can’t take it back?

 

~Keith Leonard, Ramshackle Ode

Forgiveness

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

for Dad

 
I’m writing you
10 years later
& 2,000 miles
Away from

Our silence

My mouth a cave
That had collapsed

I’m writing
While you
You wear the
Hospital gown &

count failures
Such as the body’s

Inability to rise
I see your fingers

Fumbling in the
Pillbox      as if
Earthquakes are in
Your hands
I think it’s time
For us to   abandon
Our cruelties
For us to speak
So     s    o    f    t

We’re barely
Human.

~Christopher Soto

The formatting of this poem didn’t translate when I posted it, for that go here at Poets.org.

This Page Ripped Out and Rolled into a Ball

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

A rose by any other name   could be Miguel   or Tiffany Could be David or Vashti   Why not Aya   which means beautiful flower  but also verse and miracle   and a bird         that flies away quickly    You see where this is going          That is    you could look at a rose    and call it    You See Where This Is Going   or I Knew This Would Happen    or even   Why Wasn’t I Told I’m told   of a man    who does portraits for money on the beach    He paints them with one arm  the other he left behind in a war   and so he tucks a rose into his cuff   always yellow   and people stare at it   pinned to his shoulder   while he works   Call the rose Panos   because I think that’s his name   or call it     A Chair By The Sea Point from the window   to the garden   and say   Look   a bed of Painter’s Hands   And this is a good place   to remember the rose already has many names   because   language is old and can’t agree with itself   In Albania you say Trëndafil  In Somalia say Kacay
In American poetry  it’s the flower you must never name   And now
you see where this is going   out the window   across water to a rose shaped island   that can’t exist but   you’re counting on to be there   unmapped   unmentioned till now  The green place you imagine hiding   when the world finds out   you’re not who you’ve said

~Brendan Constantine,

Barter

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder in a cup.

 

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

~Sara Teasdale

So, Why Learn Spanish?

130. Poem Written in 1991

When the Soviet Union Was Disintegrating

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Photo by TJ Parker

The reason why I’m learning Spanish
by reading Neruda one word at a time
looking most of them up in the dictionary
and the reason why I’m reading
Dickinson one poem at a time
and still not understanding
or liking much, and the reason
why I keep thinking about
what might be a story
and the reason why I’m sitting
here writing this, is that I’m trying
to make this thing.
I am shy to name it.
My father didn’t like words like “soul.”
He shaved with Occam’s razor.
Why make up stuff
when there’s enough already?
But I do fiction. I make up.
There is never enough stuff.
So I guess I can call it what I want to.
Anyhow it isn’t made yet.
I am trying one way and another
all words — So it’s made out of words, is it?
No. I think the best ones
must be made out of brave and kind acts,
and belong to people who look after things
with all their heart,
and include the ocean at twilight.
That’s the highest quality
of this thing I am making:
kindness, courage, twilight, and the ocean.
That kind is pure silk.
Mine’s only rayon. Words won’t wash.
It won’t wear long.
But then I haven’t long to wear it.
At my age I should have made it
long ago, it should be me,
clapping and singing at every tatter,
like Willy said. But the “mortal dress,”
man, that’s me. That’s not clothes.
That is me tattered.
That is me mortal.
This thing I am making is my clothing soul.
I’d like it to be immortal armor,
sure, but I haven’t got the makings.
I just have scraps of rayon.
I know I’ll end up naked
in the ground or on the wind.
So, why learn Spanish?
Because of the beauty of the words of poets,
and if I don’t know Spanish
I can’t read them. Because praise
may be the thing I’m making.
And when I’m unmade
I’d like it to be what’s left,
a wisp of cheap cloth,
a color in the earth,
a whisper on the wind. 

Una palabra, un aliento.

ii

So now I’ll turn right round
and unburden an embittered mind
that would rejoice to rejoice
in the second Revolution in Russia
but can’t, because it has got old
and wise and mean and womanly
and says: So. The men
having spent seventy years in the name of something
killing men, women, and children,
torturing, running slave camps,
telling lies and making profits,
have now decided
that that something wasn’t the right one,
so they’ll do something else the same way.

Seventy years for nothing.

And the dream that came before the betrayal,
the justice glimpsed before the murders,
the truth that shone before the lies,
all that is thrown away.
It didn’t matter anyway
because all that matters
is who has the sayso.

Once I sang freedom, freedom,
sweet as a mockingbird.
But I have learned Real Politics.
No freedom for our children
in the world of the sayso.
Only the listening.
The silence all around the sayso.
The never stopping listening.
So I will listen
to women and our children
and powerless men,
my people. And I will honor only
my people, the powerless.

–Ursula K. Le Guin
1991

Spiral

Set in Stone

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

A rosary that was my mother’s
tucked in the glove compartment of his car
and a copy of Exile on Main Street
with instructions to play track 6
when he hit some lonesome desert highway.
I love him so much my chest hurts,
thinking of him riding off into his own life,
me the weeping shadow left behind (for now).
I know I’ll see him again but it’s ceremony
we’re talking about after all—
one growing up and one growing older
both wild curses.
A train blows its horn
the light rising beyond the harbor,
a dog barks from a car window
and the nostalgia (always dangerous)
hits me like a left hook.
I’m trapped between the memory
and the moment,
the deal we make
if we make it this long,
the markers of a life,
the small worthwhile pieces
that rattle around in my pockets
waiting to be set somewhere in stone.

 

~Kevin Carey

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

“Maybe, maybe not. One thing you learn when you’ve lived as long as I have—people aren’t all good, and people aren’t all bad. We move in and out of darkness and light all of our lives. Right now, I’m pleased to be in the light.” ~ Unwind, Neal Shusterman

 

“Odds are pretty good you’re just going to get hurt again. But each time, you learn something.

Each time, you come out of it a little stronger, and at some point you realize that there are more flavors of pain than coffee. There’s the little empty pain of leaving something behind – graduating, taking the next step forward, walking out of something familiar and safe into the unknown. There’s the big, whirling pain of life upending all of your plans and expectations. There’s the sharp little pains of failure, and the more obscure aches of successes that didn’t give you what you thought they would. There are the vicious, stabbing pains of hopes being torn up. The sweet little pains of finding others, giving them your love, and taking joy in their life they grow and learn. There’s the steady pain of empathy that you shrug off so you can stand beside a wounded friend and help them bear their burdens.

And if you’re very, very lucky, there are a very few blazing hot little pains you feel when you realized that you are standing in a moment of utter perfection, an instant of triumph, or happiness, or mirth which at the same time cannot possibly last – and yet will remain with you for life.

Everyone is down on pain, because they forget something important about it: Pain is for the living. Only the dead don’t feel it.” -Jim Butcher, The Dresden Files

Opticks

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Photo by TJ Parker

This is her descending
glance captured
in a hidden photograph

taken when I was
an infant and Mother held me
at arm’s length. I look back

for her, unsurprised
still questioning why she doesn’t return
my gaze. Her eyes

fix on a spot between
her face and my face. For the infant
there is no distinction.

Her disaffection stains the intimate
objects found years later
among her things of everyday:

a thimble embroidered with a single petal.
a slim gold watch-stopped.
Brushes held to

dry in a bamboo roll. A tiny lime
and fuchsia dress sewn by her
hands for my hundredth day.

His wedding band, scarred
a muted gray. In the gap between us
a vacancy swells and bellies

the air where her eyes avert mine
to slide off where? I wish I could see her
engage and ignite

these traces of the ordinary,
the minutely particular
totems of our daily life: holy.

In an old dream, I plot a little boy’s flight.
Like a fighter pilot, I drop
a homing device back in time to spy

into the landscape of my infancy
before she turned her face away-
before my need was extraordinary.

~Eleanor Chai, Standing Water Poems

The afterlife of fame

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Photo by TJ Parker

is dark
a neglected mansion

with vanishing court
rats in the empty pool

and antiquated actress
languishing

as ghost of her famous self
flickers in the projector’s beam

or framed in silver
haunts every room

Face unrecognizable?
Name forgotten?

O float me to Oblivion
in my swan bed

with my bandaged wrists
and doors shorn of locks

with swirl of my cigarette smoke
and glitter of my jewels

and silent flutter
of my weightless tulle

~ David Trinidad

At Harlem Hospital across the street from the Schomburg the only thing to eat is a Big Mac

Next Stop
Photo by TJ Parker

after Z. S.

Still, somehow we are
carousel. We spin bodies
to the wall and back.

We are woman and
man and man. We
are surgeon and

operation. We are
everybody we love.
We are inside them.

We are inside and we
are laughing. We are
man and we will die too.

We know that much.
We are our own
shadow. We are want

of touch. We are woman
and man and man don’t look.
We are curvature—look!

We are train.
We are star.
We are big

tiny spiders. We are
crawling. We are biting.
We are hungry. We are

a stopped carousel. We are
bodies dropped to the floor.
We are shaking. We are our own.

Still, somehow, we are
laughter. We are the doorway out.
We are (again) the doorway in.

~ Samiya Bashir

Anthropocene Blues

sound de-territorializes
weather
and my love clings to you
sings to you
in the “new weathers”
within a tragedy
of the Anthropocene

nothing
not
held hostage
by the hand
of Man

can we resist?
will we fail?
to save our world?

we dream replicas of ourselves
fragile, broken
robotic thought-bubbles

inside the shadow
a looming possibility
this new year
to wake up

could it be?

an anthropoid scared
from the forest
slow in development
now infantilized
much like us

stressed yet
perhaps
ready to resist
this scenario?

the forest made the monkey
& the cave & steppe: the human
and now
what makes us suppler
more human?

climate grief?
a fierce tenderness toward
the destruction of our world?

questions
or actions?

[my love for you
sings for you, world
I’ve got those Anthropocene….
Anthropocene….
blues…..]

~ Anne Waldman

Spaces

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Photo by TJ Parker

I do not know how
she felt, but I keep

thinking of her—
screaming out to an empty street.

I had been asleep
when I heard a voice

screaming, Help!
and frantic, when I opened my door.

I remember her shoulders
in the faded towel I found

before she put on my blue sweats
and white T-shirt. Call 911

please, she said.
When the officer arrived

I said, I found her there after the—
But she said,

No, that wasn’t what
happened.

What must be valued
I’m learning,

in clarity and in error,
are spaces

where
feelings are held.

Here—in a poem?
And elsewhere

~ Jenny Johnson