Monday 11 April 2022

Five Poems by Caroline Johnstone


The houses I drew as a child


were always the same. Substantial

like Sunday dinner, yet light,

delicate like silk with their solitary green tree,

small white picket fence, a grey winding path

to the red front door and a brown brick chimney

ready for the first offering

of the hearth. 


This was my perfect house

and like my best laid plans

for boats that never left harbours

the flimsy perfection I reached for

through the small irritations of life

are memories  black and white

like cobwebs   ghosts of wedding veils.


The Whisperers


Memories are deep pools

fragments in riverbeds,

seaweed that suddenly

clambers round your leg

like ghosts.


They are a pot of leftovers

you sometimes stir, try to swallow

the spilled milk and hunger

of disappointment

that sticks in your throat.


They are black ravens

whispering into Odin’s ears,

the glint in their eyes clear to see

for they have the memories

and they also have a key


No trees at all


grief is

a small house

perched on the edge

of an estuary


there are


no trees at all


some years

all you can do

is keep walking




It’s the kind of day

you’ve longed for

that grows longer with heat

a molten light

that is the purity of hope

after winter


but its wings are blighted

with what gnaws at you

what leaves your ego

bruised like apples


that rough tongued handling

and the slights you imagine

rain dark moles

on what you wish

was a thicker skin.


The poem of the earth is ending


Maybe it was the way she dressed that did it –

short skirts in high summer, heat rising

from skin, how she’d try to not draw attention

to herself, draping night’s grey blanket

over her shoulders.


Maybe she let her guard down when

she was absorbed in drawing harebell blues,

sloe purples through the pink blush of dawn

and slut red sunsets, or maybe

it was that one time she’d had the temerity

to flick a beam, so it bounced off

heather granite and frost crystals

to kiss the green hills.


Maybe she was always

the collateral damage of power,

need, greed, and maybe

it was just the strength of her

so she needed to feel the lesson

of who was really in charge.


They say alarm bells rung by firefighters’ hands

are the warning of a lover,

but this is the story of dark streets and violence,

the kiss without consent.


While you were having a laugh, I was always

minding my own business. I might always

get the blame, but skirts don’t rape

the earth or strip away its dignity.


Mercury rises, ice caps melt.

The poem of the earth is ending.


*Wallace Stevens (the poems of heaven and hell have been written, it remains to write the poem of the earth” 


Caroline Johnstone grew up in Northern Ireland and now lives on the west coast of Scotland. She is a poet and author.  Her poems can be found in Poetry Scotland The Blue Nib, The Bangor Literary Journal, Marble Poetry and many others. In 2019, she won the Waterways Storymaking Festival and Imprint Writing Awards, the Beyond Borders Round III competition and was long-listed for the Over The Edge New Writer of the Year.  In 2020, she was mentioned with honours in the Cinnamon Pencil Award.  She loves curling up with a book with tea in a china cup, forest, oceans and wild spaces. 

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