Mindy Ohringer responds to Jasmin Johnson’s poem ‘watering the machine’

Some thoughts regarding

“watering the machine” by Jasmin Johnson,

Offered by Mindy Ohringer.



an exquisite meditation on mortality,

folding and unfolding, interplay between the particular, universal, cosmic.

telescoping and magnification within the text – shifting lens of identity, black, female, queer, South,

migration, fraught, complex, and inspiration friendship, exploring what defines us, prodding us to wonder: what do we get to define on the journey, what is the journey?

It is suggested that we:

Bear witness.  Exhort morality. Discover within the full spectrum of human socialization, the scale of fragile identity formation and intimate loss. In the love of others, we find ourselves, lose ourselves, and are reborn as better selves.

Ask: What has shaped such a stunning soul, what is the underpinning of this suffering? What about it is truly known to us?

A partial answer: We know ourselves in contrast to Old Time religion, We create and dissect a multiplicity of selves within and outside of identities that are understood as independent variables by social scientists, and identity politics itself. Some independent variables such as age are less salient if the writer is young, some independent variables are more salient as the writer embraces certain intersections as intertwining method and home.

What do loss, suffering, particularly the loss and suffering that experienced as preordained by virtue of race, class, and gender, those pesky and profound independent variables, tell us? How do we awaken from slumber, from opiated, undifferentiated masses and change the world?  When do we awaken? It is art that tells us morning has come, will come, is coming…

We listen. We listen more closely. We love. We love more deeply and broadly. We honor our friends alive and dead. We summon and refract starlight.

A poem is written that fulfills this extraordinary mission. The one you heard.


Mindy Ohringer

My politically charged fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in “The Thieving Magpie”, “Rat’s Ass Review”, “October Hill Magazine”, “The Greenwich Village Literary Review”, “MORE.com”, “New Choices”, and “The Columbia Spectator. ” In September 2018, I was a “Writer in Residence” at Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, working on the second book of my phantasmagorical trilogy about women writers, their struggle to create, and the 2008 presidential election. In June 2018, I participated in Marge Piercy’s annual juried poetry intensive. My short story, “When The Men We Don’t Marry Come To Find Us” is forthcoming in the on-line literary journal “Terror House.” I’ve worked in entertainment public relations, government, politics, and public education advocacy. I studied Political Science at Barnard College, earned an M.A. in Politics from New York University, and completed seventy-two credits of doctoral work in Politics at N.Y.U. My blog, “Union & Utopia”, exploring how the political and personal intertwine, can be 
found at mindyohringer.com

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