Opportunity Cost

chapbook_abbyjohnson_laurel copy

Winner of the 2021 Frontier Digital Chapbook Contest

Abby Johnson

Read the chapbook for free here.

You can purchase the physical book from Barnes & Noble here.

Please take time to review Abby's chap on Good Reads here!

Welcome to the fourth collection in our chapbook series! As we've said before: the mission of the chapbook contest has never been to produce a collection that would need to turn a profit, but simply to identify the strongest work by an emerging poet that we could champion in its publication as a free digital chapbook.



Johnson recounts what it means to live after assault and navigate once-safe spaces now haunted by pain. The speaker talks to old friends, wakes from troubling dreams, has physically intimate moments, even watches television. Yet none of these moments are free from the haunting presence of trauma. With shifting yet repetitive form, sharp imagery, and mesmerizing vulnerability, Opportunity Cost seeks not to be healed, but to be heard.



Abby Johnson is a poet and a Hoosier who is proud of the local art scene that fostered her. She received her MFA in Creative Writing through Butler University. During her time there, she served as Poetry Co-Editor for Booth: A Journal. She has poems published in Turnpike Magazine, Josephine Quarterly, The Indianapolis Review, and most recently in the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of Sycamore Review.



“Opportunity Cost is a skillfully built sequence about grappling with the aftermath of assault. Ordinarily innocuous parts of language, like punctuation and the act of editing ones words, become powerful tools with which the poet explores the torturous ways we negotiate pain caused by those close to us. It is a unique book on an often difficult to navigate topic. I am grateful for it, grateful to the poet who crafted it."."

— Kazim Ali, 2021 Chapbook Judge


"This book is awake to its own pain. This book is determined to put it on the record. For me, this book is true solace, stark truth-- therefore necessary for all of us to read."

Alessandra Lynch, Author of Pretty Tripwire


"Opportunity Cost is a stunning collection of poems that orbit a luminous and relentless rage, but also cling tight to a relationship with survival, with pleasure, with everything on the other side. And it is that, that reaching towards an understanding of an after that allows these poems to sing well beyond the page."

Hanif Abdurraqib, Author of A Fortune for Your Disaster


"The poems in Abby Johnson’s Opportunity Cost show us how assault changes the way a person experiences the world. Everything becomes a reminder, a threat: the movers who steal underwear off her dresser, the rain which touches the speaker without her consent, even—or perhaps, especially—language. In the poem “He,” the assailant infects every single word. In the series, “To My Assailant’s Wife,” the speaker struggles between what to reveal and what to erase. Who can the speaker trust with her story? Can she trust you?"

Paige Lewis, Author of Space Struck




Opportunity Cost

If: he assaults me
then: strip to shame: shower twice a day
If: taste the word: whisper it: slut
then: whimper prayer: let this: be pure
If: pucker at sting of lemon: cut open: another
then: wail when it storms: no one listens
If: panic is a body
then: it marries: me

If: he does not assault me
then: my name spoken: my own voice
If: desire is clear water: sand at the bottom
then: mirror: image
If: breathing slowly like a child
then: alone with a man: comfort
If: unimaginable if: I want it
then: I want it


To My Assailant’s Wife

You are so pretty you must deserve to be treated well.
It seems cruel to tell you this now.

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