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

 


Eclipse

 

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. 

1 comment:

Five Tanka and Ten Haiku by Ruth Holzer

  Five Tanka and Ten Haiku wearied  you left me and turned into a butterfly I became another one to pursue you through the air supper a hard...