Brian Johnstone – three poems


The shit reminds them
they are here

as trespassers. The wood
a good will lease;

the garden, by extension,
just on loan. Droppings

left in long grass,
moss banks, beds tell tales

of visits in the gloaming,
of foraging for food.

The grubbed up patch
below the beech,

a badger’s scrape;
the tufts of lichen

teased up from the path,
all nesting stuff.

A silent argument
of ownership,

a cacophony of marks.
And theirs, their steps,

the cultivated ground,
just doesn’t count for shit.

Why You Won the First Prize for The Twist
i.m. Min Johnstone 1913-1998

You’d barely dropped the 40s style,
that Barbara Stanwyck look you loved,
when in the 60s raged in all the brashness of their youth.

Bemused, you soon caught on, got with it,
went for trouser suits and flares, from bangs to perms,
peroxide in your urge to fight it,

age – the only snag. But you knew
that the beat goes on. Next summer at the golf club hop,
that Chubby Chekker hit, and you were it.

They couldn’t keep you in your seat
as one more dance craze proved you’d kept your youth.
Twisting with the best of them, you took the prize.

What was it? Did you ever say?
Truth is, it was the way you wore your years;
the grip you had upon each iron, wood; on being you:

that someone always called a girl, who lived it too.

Cramond Island

Our vessel no less than a forty-one bus,
we abandoned at stops hard by the shore

and footed it out on the causeway, steered
by cement that tied island to mainland,

tank traps flagging the route. No more
than a coastal wasteground, the detritus

of war, of industry none could remember,
smashed concrete and squadrons of rust

gave the place its allure as much as the tide
that could moor us there, trap the unwary

all of a day, ebbing long after the last bus
had gone, chippies had closed for the night.

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), and his poetry appears on the UK Poetry Archive website. A founder and former Director of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, he has read at festivals from Macedonia to Nicaragua, and venues across the UK.


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