Brian Johnstone – three poems


This branch to which I take
the running chain

is dead in that one sense
we cling to stubbornly,

believing stasis, dehydration
mark the loss of life;

dead the way no beech or ash
can ever be

set moving by the winds
that brought this limb to earth,

that aired it for a year
and made it ready for the saw

to section it,
the axe to split it into twins

whose life is kindled once again
in winter grates

that spark, spring into being,
wrest it back in flame,

and grow it, given
earth and ashes, given time.

In Pefki Gorge

all here are overshot
water from the mountain
converging on each drop

now piped away
from channels cut in rock
to needs more pressing

leaving each mill race
bereft of meaning
a husk of what it was

Dead Hare

Two side roads, neither one of which I take,
but keep the one I’m on beneath my feet

until the woodland track reveals itself
in stacks of timber, cut a year ago, marked up

and ready for the mill. I pass them all, head on
downhill through stands of larch and beech

and there, as perfect as the day it ran in fields,
a dead hare stares at me with one glazed eye,

the other thrust into the verge some vehicle,
in making haste, has cast him to. The care

that’s lacking in the urge to get somewhere,
in no time, at all costs, has paid no heed

to him, hare that might be running still.
Behind me crows, I see, are circling the hill.

Brian Johnstone’s work has appeared throughout Scotland, in the UK, North America and Europe. He has published six collections, most recently Dry Stone Work (Arc, 2014). His work has recently been added to The Poetry Archive (see He has read at poetry festivals from Macedonia to Nicaragua, and venues across the UK. More information, poems, audio and video can be found at


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