Neutron Star


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Neutron Star should be required reading - poignant, powerful and incredibly evocative.


Just as neutron stars are some of the most extreme objects in the universe. Poetry is one of the most extreme art forms to embody and detail the world we live in today. Neutron Star contains poems about a wide range of topics that will definitely inspire you to take a second glace at everything you know. Most of these poems were written in a spoken word/performance style and adapted for print. Immerse yourself in witty , powerful stories and rhymes that will stick to your thoughts. There are poems from love , to black empowerment, childhood stories, political issues, hip-hop , family, social media and more. Most poems were written through my college and high school years, while many things were taking place in the world pertaining to racial inequality. There was a lot to reflect about . Each chapter is themed and will take you into a refreshing, new journey.

Beginning with ‘core’, Neutron Star by Kevin Charles Johnson II, focuses on identity, family, love and legacy. Johnson grounds his identity in his blackness and in the power of his spoken and written word. ‘Birthday’ is fantastically honest and shares with the reader who Johnson is. It is also a hallmark piece, showcasing the poet’s rhythmic, spoken style which characterises all of the pieces in this collection. ‘Increments’ reflects wonderfully on the writing process - how it makes and breaks us whilst ‘Conqueror’ is a powerful use of metaphor, superbly challenging society’s desire to marginalise communities: “if there’s life in the voice i’ve received / then i’ve made a way to revive the tides like moon / and inspire people that end and rescind like water”.

The personal beginning is extended in ‘density’ as Johnson writes about familial relationships and for his relatives. The tributes to his mother and brother are beautiful and ‘Domonique’ is haunting in both its love and grief. 

“drowning isn’t in the fabric of black boys

black moms reach hands like

lifeboats into the hearts of their sons” [The Core of a Son]

To build upon poems like ‘The Core of a Son’, ‘star death’ moves swiftly and unapologetically into poems focused on the black empowerment and his fight for social justice. ‘Tracks’ is a stark reminder of how much has been built by enslaved people: “creating has always been our life blood / ask who really built this nation”. ‘Motives’ gave me goosebumps and awakened within me the fight Johnson claims so powerfully. His words push for the intersectionality we must embrace; our fight for black lives cannot be conditional. Finally, ‘Black Margins’ in this section should be required reading. Johnson himself calls it a poetic lesson and I am inclined to agree. At no point do these words shy away from reality and the truth. 

Here, the collection shifts slightly as ‘aurora’ begins and Johnson ruminates upon love - both given and unrequited. ‘Boys my Age’ is a superb indictment of toxic masculinity, illustrating what it really means to be a man in love. ‘Mausoleum’ showcases yet again Johnson’s control of extended metaphor and ‘Soulmates’ and ‘Nova’ were simply beautiful pieces.

“you use your bones as matchsticks 

desperate to feel like 

you did when you held stars in your jaws 

and your smile never set in the west” [Nova]

Finally, Neutron Star draws to a close with phenomenal pieces reflecting on the modern world and current affairs in ‘spectrum’. ‘Visions of Another World’ was perhaps my favourite piece of the entire collection, employing opposites to reveal reality beneath a harsh light. These truths are developed intelligently in ‘Misguided Lead’ and then in the final section, ‘12 days in august’. Both ‘8/1’ and ‘8/11’ were poignant, powerful and gorgeously evocative pieces, demonstrating the masterful structure of Neutron Star as a whole. Johnson never loses sight of his legacy and every piece from beginning to end contributes to his final message in ‘Not a Poem’ that our power rests in what we leave behind: “you are in control of your place among the stars”

Reviewed by

I am an English teacher and a writer. I published my first poetry collection, Between the Trees, in May 2019. I read widely and avidly and review through Reedsy Discovery, Amazon Vine and individual review requests. All reviews are published on Amazon, Goodreads and my blog - My Screaming Twenties.


Just as neutron stars are some of the most extreme objects in the universe. Poetry is one of the most extreme art forms to embody and detail the world we live in today. Neutron Star contains poems about a wide range of topics that will definitely inspire you to take a second glace at everything you know. Most of these poems were written in a spoken word/performance style and adapted for print. Immerse yourself in witty , powerful stories and rhymes that will stick to your thoughts. There are poems from love , to black empowerment, childhood stories, political issues, hip-hop , family, social media and more. Most poems were written through my college and high school years, while many things were taking place in the world pertaining to racial inequality. There was a lot to reflect about . Each chapter is themed and will take you into a refreshing, new journey.


Book of Ages

last year i looked at my art like a burning book

pages and pages of charred words entering the sky

embers of torched dreams falling to the cement

cementing my failure in stone

i'd pen my power to paper as if the space

between ball point and blue line

was a World War II trench

i used to write within an inch of my life

as i inched closer to saving someone else's

ever been a poet so long

you begin to think your poems will write themselves

like when you're sleep

inspiration will get inside your head

fire off your neurons provoking your arm

to ghost write for your own body

last year my art made me feel like a ghost in my own body

like the pen would fall through my spectral hands

hit the floor then laugh at me and tell me it was a metaphor

there were times when i thought in similes

i thought no one was like or as great as me

i stitched my poetry into audiences

made them feel like they could conquer a world of fallacies

and in my heart i believed since i was the one who penned it

i could best the same challenges

last year my art was in the hands of a black boy

who looked at black joy as something that

comes when i finished a pro black poem

i laid poems to rest in the mausoleum of my notebook

i master locked my masterpieces

pieced together my mediocre

forgot my pastor's thesis and sewed my seeds in plantation

like gardens just like master pleases

the master being my doubt

that anything that falls from these fingers aren't fruit

like any word that dares to part my lips

and sit on the precipice of my tongue doesn't

deserve to dance its way into existence

if i have any memory of the year as it passed

it's my love for my art has not shifted

with the change in its consistency

in the hands of that black boy

it wanted to fade into mystery

in the hands of this black man

it looks to re-write history

and if this thing we call poetry

is really all it's cracked up to be

then it's time to crack down on the

doubt that's opposing me

last year i looked at my art like a burning book

this time around i look to publish it


fell in love with words when i was young boy

used sentence structures to build up my black joy

i use a pen like a viking/ ink hiking up loose leaf

with a smile so inviting/ i may enlighten your whole week

my poems pain releasing Vicodin

let Kev show you that light again

never associate with rats or end up like Of Mice and Men

i'm enticed to win but a loser's mentality is common

even a nigga named Common won Grammys

and other accolades often

so i fight the system like squaring up with an Xbox

then make my own way it's like a personal detox

but the ops look through their optics

then release shots that leaves a nigga like me on the block

and his mom holds the wound till the bleed stops

or till he drops

can these cops...

be empathetic

so i can stop living in public with a smile that's synthetic

these stanzas electrifying

this shock therapy would release the cravings of addicts

this is acupuncture

i use needles

you use bullets

but you cocky niggas think you could cock a 9 and pull it

gun control happens when 9’s

are passed over like the number 10

and bullets aren't made to be put in bodies

for coroners to behold

let me flip it

coroners know there be holes in bodies by bullets

9’s aren't made to be put in the hands

of people with minds like 10 years old's

that's what happens when lunatics have guns controlled

this pen is not counterfeit and yeah i said lunatics

get angry and i'll throw a counter fit

this what happens when a poet can kind of spit

you're going to start hearing sentences with all kinds of flips

boy fails to become man in the face of woman

because his feelings loose

but good woman turns boys to men

like a singing group

and that's a flip

i swear i'm not doing this on accident

relax and let me spit

there's a present dent in our society

because of a consistent focus on the irrelevant

but irrelevant focus seems to be a consistent trait of our president

and that's a flip

back to back like a Meek diss

when i'm at my peak it's

kind of scary, i'm sharper

find me in the eye of the bull

like a prime archer

i'm going farther than my father's expectations

watch this poet stitch stanzas and bars

what you've witnessed is open heart operation

ops per nation look to open hearts

witnesses you've seen sit still

but with these bars and stanzas

this poet will stitch them and never just watch

and that's a flip




cursed with the calamity of kaleidoscope dreams

reality drove me insane to the point i wanted

to cremate the color off every one of God’s creations

i was

fighting to stay sane in a sea of red

                                    whose waters wanted me dead

dreaming in an ocean of blue


                                   whose love i wished was true

withering away in a wave of white

                                  whose words wanted to write my suicide note tonight

basking in the beauty of black

showing me what i loved

                                 not what i lacked


Deep. Press. Shun

my bed is the sweetest escape i’ve ever known

wrapping myself in sheets

is the same as being blanketed in oblivion

but i’m warm

i’ve probably counted more sheep

than i have breaths left

even in my dreams i’m tired

my unconscious body

boa constricted by comforters

my weighted blanket isn’t heavier

than the gravity tugging at my eyelids

to never see the light of day again

i invest in quicksand mattresses

sinking deeper than my heart when the alarm

screams my body into separation anxiety

my snooze button resets the bomb

i tire as it ticks

dismantling at the thought

of escaping from an escape as great as this

my muscles force themselves into rigor mortis

the floor is lava forever

why do pillows and pain sing such a beautiful duet

why do i shun my sadness when not conformed to a cushion

i’ll never understand why it is i who cannot rest


A Birthday

i'm not always on par

i'm not always on excellence

i'm not always a nappy haired

Huey Newton reincarnate

i'm not always wrapped around a poem

pens don’t live in my fingertips

my notebooks don't bend into the shape of a therapist

i am human

with a Jesus like spirit

welcoming him whole heartedly

appealed to my vision

snapped my spine to attention

like ADHD prevention

i don't wallow in sadness

i don't break at the seams

my heart don't slack on it beats

death don't walk next to me

and by practicing patience

i've become a token in this prodigal nation

year by year i end and begin

a birthday;

a wedding of moments

contributing to my design

but before i repeat the actions

that got me here

i'll look at today and thank God

that after a year

i'm still alive

i'm still learning

and i'm still here


Misshapen Memories

i have misshapen memories

of when i had the tendency

to tend to the ill gotten

dreams this life has sentenced me

my mind is not a jail cell

nor can this world inhale

enough of my prowess

to cripple my power

and put me in chains

i lift a strong fist

tackle the temptation

that i'm trying to resist

sun like fire when these

moons try to eclipse

this life tried to paint me like the winter solstice

like i ain't have enough light in my life to control this

feeling that darkness is this thing i could harness

and make beautiful, i mean, what's the duty of an artist

what’s my purpose on earth

to spin the fabric of my soul into a miraculous birth

baby Jesus like epithets cloud like my pen is a cigarette

i'm not one for air pollution

but when God gave me the gift

to write my life into the air waves

my sole intention was to take

your breath so that air waves

as it leaves your body



summer came and cremated my companionship

in a season where all blooms

my buds never blossomed enough to gather sunlight

i've had grave encounters with heat

keeping our feet from forming pathways through unknown earth

it was almost like separation was seasonal

like the closer we were to the sun the further we were apart

june is the cause of my suffering

the moving of months managed to push me

closer to solitude than depression

i wilted as the roses were born

exhausted as the leaves breathed

and grew cold as the air became inferno

july is the middleman between my happiness and i

my smile was lost somewhere in august

i tried to pry away the seconds of summer

to swim out of season

in fall we frolicked like dying leaves

cooler winds unwound my tension

beautiful sunsets united our souls

loneliness didn’t loom overhead

nor could my future be forecasted

i'd love to live in less summer

if that means my solitude could be shortened

A Birthday pt.2

i'm a quantum loop

my causality casually captures

more kryptonite than a man in a booth

endless resistance threatens to

throw spears through my truth

i'm way too blessed to be seen as a spook

i'm too gifted to lose

21 years is a beautiful thing

march 11th

the day life tied the knot;

a spiritual wedding ring

duty to the earth

enlighten & love

morph the composition of my body

into that of a dove; a black one

with heritage and culture dripping

from my wings to be a symbol of above

and below

my foundation frequently

reminds me where i was founded

upon the wrinkled sidewalks of Maryland streets

is where i found my feet

or footing

now everywhere i'm looking is near the pinnacle

even when i'm cynical

ascension never looked so good on me

until i cut the greed

sacrificed my life to the sky

and watched heavenly rays leak from my father's eye


the moment i fell in love

with the trinity my life turned

from one direction to a quantum loop

"happy birthday” from the mouths of friends

sustains my joy until the timer on the day ends

my life starts whenever the bullseye

on the board darts at the sight of my arrow

i want to be powerful abroad never narrow

as the mind on some of these Einstein's

who look at poetry as just some words that rhyme

i'm a quantum loop

every year on this day i will live

my impact is the proof

before i breathe my last breath

this world will include

my name in the category of people

who gave it pride to continue its loop


i live in increments

my moments are moon-crescent

never fully shining

i cease like silence

in between gaps i die

my soul dissipates

dissolves and dilutes

when i cannot write truth

my life seems minute

my exhale derails

my spirit from my body

my hand becomes empty

willing to deny genesis

my pen insists i pick it up

to gain my life back

but if my fingers fold around it

i will fold it's tragic

this block brings me closer

to death than disease

my eyes streak comets

and i cannot breathe

this block has the power to

sever the thoughts i have

it singlehandedly snipes the inspiration

hanging above my head                                                                   

it pulls the color from my eyes

it makes me paint pictures with colorless pigments

figments of imagination turned into fragments

shattered dreams fall as glass around my pen

when words fight over

who will mean the most in my mouth

i swallow them to teach them a lesson




i want to be etched in stone

like commandments

chisel my name into diamonds

riddle me into rocks

and cast me across the ocean

let me wash up on shore

my pebbles are all in view

my boulders are all here too

what you see is what you get

now don't make me avalanche

i want to be etched in stone

after i erode my fossils will re-write history

my diamonds will stand the test of clock hands

can i become a comet

this gravity keeps me grounded

this gets me sentimental

i want to be celestial not sedimentary

i want to be etched in stone

some of my superiors found a way

to orbit around the system

can i be big enough to find

what i'm destined to do and plan it

or will i be etched in a smaller stone

that will never escape this planet


i try to make sleepless nights look good

while plotting during the daytime

how to escape the moon

i am a night owl

restless bones and uprooted blankets lie in my bed

my eyelids are revolving doors

i find myself trying to slam them shut only to fail

my mind becomes a battleground between the future

and the past as they wage war over the outcome of my soul

how can i sleep

when the past ties tangent lines to my after life

when my bed feels like coffin

consuming my will drift into dream

i am beautiful in the night

like crescent moon tongue kissing cloud

i am alive when the sun rises

outlasting darkness and streetlights

my smile peeks over my lips like

horizon lines mediate the sun’s birth and death on a daily basis

i radiate in light or in night

in this skin and in this body

i laugh at lack of sleep and

boast in the gift of my charm

i try to make sleepless nights look good

     Subject to Creation                     

i am subject to creation like

how words form sentences and

introductions piece together relationships

i was made from dirt;

formed by the functions of my

creator to pick words from thin air

to lighten thick atmospheres

i commune with myself like

pollination populates barren gardens

i'm the bee that carries

creation from paper to person

i am media;

mass producing inspiration

to knock the dust off the brain

that could find better ways to

cure cancer than radiation

i am a light source

no electricity needed

there's not enough wattage

to fuel a mind so vast

i was created to show creation

actually came to pass



creativity boils like anger in my hands

hot potato my concepts

nothing but thoughts in my lands

shades of emerald when i close my eyes

the grass is greener where my pen is

i could make it red if i try

if i’m feeling pain

i could make it color the sky

i write to soften the edge

i will still live when i die

no longer corrupted

my main eruption

when epiphany strikes

writers block lifted

my main addiction is when the pen is in sight

cathartic sentences be my witness

i will bring a star to my night

with spoken word i'm inclined to learn

how to make your life just as light

ain’t nothing sweeter

than when my ideas are alive in the now

king of my creativity

i'll keep their heads in a bow

i’m not defeated

though often seeking an end to my frown

i’m not conceited

so best believe it’s candid my crown

i close my notebook and suddenly i hear ambulance sounds



i am a conqueror

my bones are batting cages of negativity

my infrastructure is an Atlantean city

i am strong enough to stay afloat in the deepest of disaster

my face is a formulation of Jim Crow laws

and Willy Lynch theories erased

my lips are free to open and let words

battle the oppression that looks to place me in margins

i am the only one who can write my life into a margin

take a pen and push it from red line to faded blue

leave my life somewhere between the arms of loose leaf

i season myself to endure any season

from when the sun beams to when the oak loses leaves

i am a believer

the fruits of my mind were picked

by the calloused hands of my ancestors

if i ever desire to throw my apples to the ground

i'll return to it

my ancestors conquered the slave

my savior conquered the grave

if there's life in the voice i've received

then i’ve made a way to revive the tides like moon

and inspire people that end and rescind like water


im binding a book of all the fights

i had over self-worth with myself in bed at 4am

when all my dreams circled around

my head like stars after incapacitation

just so i can remember all the times

the questions i asked myself were enough

to induce insomnia over the awareness of my spirit

i chose to avoid sleep and it caught up with me

i reacted by reaching into the deepest parts of

my essence to find justification in etching

the experiences of my life into composition notebooks

just to feel like the composer of something

something other than the soundtrack to the

sorrow that used to surround the weight

of my footsteps on days where i had to

scoop gravity out of my heart by hand

when i become an author

i'll write about the times where

i looked at pens like a penalty

like to touch ink was to be sentenced

my fingerprint didn’t exist on anything

i wanted to leave my mark on


i’m going to be an author of a book that’s imperfect

but every fascicle will seem minimal in its wake

i will not falsify any facet of how heavy my blankets

were when i wanted to live in beauty but didn’t know how

i will not downplay how direct my path

was to a grave of my own construction

and how almost falling in was an alternate

to falling in love because at the time

i flirted with reapers like i had matrimony in mind

im going to bind a book

that holds all the power

i lost and found again because

nostalgia saves more lives

than being present does

About the author

I am Kevin Charles Johnson II. I am a 25 year old poet from Maryland. I've been writing , teaching , and loving spoken word poetry for 11 years. My artist name is Spokenbykj. view profile

Published on September 23, 2020

20000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Poetry

Reviewed by