Jeff T. Johnson, excerpts from “The Book / Or / The Woods”




Every forest needs a monster
Whether or not it exists

The monster punctuates the forest
The monster binds the forest

The monster is Y
The forest




What does the monster do? We do not know, as we are (&
are) not there, & where is there, & what is there, & the
monster blurs the trees, a blur in the trees.




Does the forest make the monster or

Does the monster make itself a forest?

1 cannot see the monster for the trees.




Y the monster character, hybrid pronoun, misshapen
punctuation, question absent mark, undecided spot, mouth
tuned to the canopy, standing on 1 leg.




O pronominal monster!
Y, lead the way!





Y the monster has a deck of cards. The back of each a
forest. The monster lays a cross along discarded leaves. The
cards are invisible, but the monster knows they are there. A
forest covers the forest floor. The cross has a crown & a
base, a behind & a before, a stand of 4 leaves at the right.
The querent bends over the cross. Dark robe. 4 talents
inverted. Justice. 9 cups full. Devil on his head. Horse
carries coin. Coin on page. A page, a sword. 10 wands
plucked down. 7 grown coins. 10 cups arrayed.




The monster disappears behind a tree.




Who calls out the monster, & whom does the monster hear?
Who reads the scattered leaves that make the forest floor?
The shadows know what they do not tell
The forest hides more than its trees
& what is that shade upon the page?




& where did the monster go
Strikes the question the book refused to pose
Or waves the match the book would not raise
Or lifts the book in question
Then throws it to the efes
The book escapes to the forest
Where the formal shadows gather
& the winds do not appear to blow
The names from the paper
For is the forest in the book
Or is the book on the forest floor
Wrapped in itself, a forest for its cover?






Jeff T. Johnson is the author of Trouble Songs: A Musicological Poetics (punctum books, 2017). His writing has recently appeared in GrammaPEN America, Fanzine, and Jacket2. A chapbook, trunc & frag, is at Our Teeth. He is a Digital Studies Fellow at Rutgers-Camden, and lives in West Philadelphia. For more information, visit