MEET THE AUTHOR
This essay began as an assignment to use a
first-person voice from the position of witness. It was an assignment designed to challenge what it means to tell another person’s
story by forcing a writer to contend with her
own subjectivity, experience, and ego. Still,
it’s always a huge surprise to me how some
essays come together. “Serpentine” I wrote
in pieces: scenes, images, bits of reflection
that I loosely strung together like so many
buttons of different sizes and colors. With the pages spread across a long
work table, I stood and stared for a long time. What connected the parts?
What bigger thing beyond the simple narrative were they trying to say?
I saw the hairpin curves of the dragon’s tail tattooed on my husband’s
arm, I saw my husband’s Humvee snaking through the concrete barriers
of a checkpoint in Iraq, I saw a brown paper bag appear, disappear, and
come back into view. This serpentine form repeated itself through imagery. And for the first time ever, I saw how a structure of switchbacks
could move a reader through a serpentine of memories and how those
memories could travel alongside a lived experience, but in the opposite
direction. Which is how I ultimately defined my role as witness to my
Ember Johnson lives and writes in Center City, Minnesota. She was a
winner of the 2013–14 Loft Mentor Series in nonfiction. Her work has
appeared in Georgetown Review and Fourth Genre. She completed her
BA in creative writing from Metropolitan State University in 2016 and
is currently pursuing her MFA degree at the University of Minnesota.