Wednesday 28 February 2024

A Poem a Day (624): Light notes

Light notes
Light after rain,
a calling card,
lingers in the crevices,
the gaps, this after-song
to water, hope lifted.
Pale sky, bluest eggshell,
white wisps drift, blow freely,
write words out of captivity
in a burst lasting seconds,
brush the sun into distance.
High on wet tiles, a seagull
sculpted, zip-suited white,
wings tightly in, grey pants,
keen eye. He is your lookout,
can play the peacock for hours.
Clouds scurry to wait for you,
patient on the horizon, a note,
a promise that can’t be touched.
Night yearns, locked, drowned out
by this incandescent rain.
Vickie Johnstone, February 27-28, 2024

Monday 26 February 2024

A Poem a Day (623): Drift

We drift,
as wood, motionless,
emotion full, tidal strength.
A meander of means,
an escape into the body
peeled off, layer by layer.
Here is ebb,
here is flow.
Water, without will,
where there is light,
silver magic weave.
And we are spun,
enravelled, unravelled,
one motion.

Copyright Vickie Johnstone, February 26, 2024

Sunday 25 February 2024

A Poem a Day (622): Kicking the can

Kicking the can
They build fences, paint them ivory white,
staple them together, immobile bodies,
built thus high so they cannot fall.
You can’t pass either. Clearly, No Entry.
There are silences doomed to win,
the self-created, the unwitnessed,
those generated by the masses, disgorged.
We plan a life in man-made widgets.
The can opens, jagged-edged teeth.
Globules of pop drip, accumulate,
and you wonder why you opened it.
Was it to drink or to learn something?
Did the recipe change or is it still medicinal,
a sustenance for our woes, to bathe them?
The secret ingredient used to be cocaine,
some say. Did you get it on prescription?
We clench the light in fist, in a bracket,
shut it away from all these prying faces.
They don’t want it to escape, to wander,
in case someone shows what it really is.
All these heartfelt promises, they fade away,
and so they hide the light in brackets.
They may even dig a hole and sink it,
shun completely, so it can never breathe.
One day.
Copyright Vickie Johnstone, February 22, 2024

Thursday 22 February 2024

A Poem a Day (621): The dappled horse

The dappled horse (a blues poem)
Long legs set deep in the mud, saddleless, he stands still,
stares straight ahead, legs in the mud so deep, so quietly still.
He raises neither head nor tail, a dappled statue on the hill.
Two shire horses sweep their tails, peek through the foliage,
ivy framing the two fellows, finding gaps in the foliage,
they neither bother nor notice the solitary fellow on edge.
He has a story to tell, this old nag with the worn-out bones.
When the children come calling, he feels them deep in his bones,
forgets the time in the shivering snow when no one heard his groans.
Back on the Old Man’s farm, he’d be left in the yard, tied to a tree.
He never went beyond that farm, shackled as he was to that tree.
When the Old Man died, he took a while to realise he was free.
Now he stands still in the same spot in the midst of this open field,
just because he doesn’t have to stand in this spot in this open field,
but this is where he chooses to stand, deep in the mud, now he’s wild.  
Copyright Vickie Johnstone, February 22, 2024

Saturday 17 February 2024

A Poem a Day (620): For Leland Hermit

For Leland
We enter the silence of never forgetting,
listen to the murmurations of a lost few
spiralling high in this languid, shivering air,
the cirrus strewn like white cotton sheets.
Here, we contemplate the misty curve of morn
rousing life out of night, our shadows lengthening,
teasing us that they know the way. But only we know.
This is where nature absorbs us, draws us in.
I watch you scatter, track nature’s scents from miles off,
a skill I can only dream of. An emerald lizard darts.
You ferret deep into the spiky undergrowth,
digging down this dry desert, coming up twigs.
These trails we spirit down take me back some days,
hiking past our guards, these purple-blue mountains,
jagged peaks fogged out, streams of misted white light,
and without a care we pass by the ghosts of yesterday.
Low hums catch on the drafts, silk petals turn sunward.
Our paths never cross with any other human being.
This is a kind of freedom, this sweet eclipsing
of the glass-brick-grey city with its petrol choke,
And in this yellow, green, sienna-dusted viesta
we walk as one, legs bumping legs bumping legs,
our breath blowing clouds to mix in the air,
as if we are a doodled, made-up faery creature.
As high as we are, the opening skies seem lower,
as if seeking to reach down to bathe our heads.
Absent, we traipse this stone-worn curl of path,
knowing by heart its myriad twisted ways.
In the end, you inevitably take the onward lead,
as though you are the parent and I am the child,
protecting me. You wag your tail and turn your head,
beckon me to follow as far as we can see.
Copyright Vickie Johnstone, February 16/17, 2024

Sunday 11 February 2024

A Poem a Day (619): The garden

The garden

‘Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic. Here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space’ – Barbara Hepworth

‘A sort of magic’ is unearthed,
here, in this space, this embryonic bed,
a studio of colour birthed in energy,
art that explodes in wild, myriad furore.
We step inside crimson shape & etched form,
a bold green of ever blue, speak of the intangible,
will it to form in our hands what only we can feel.
Carvations of sleek limbs and solid blocks.
As the closed wings of a bird, Two Forms,
parallel eyes juxtaposed, poised opposite.
One peers out, the other examines within.
The wider seems to fix us in irony.
These seeking eyes fear to frame the world.
We step out in order to step in,
reside inside the outside of ourselves,
where we are as we never were.
Metal reimagines us in stasis, eternal action,
and here we are, deepest inside, turned.
Our reflections blossom within these other eyes,
big, bold expressions we have only yearned.
Lines within curves, intricate mazes repaved,
scooping out holes to show what is not there,
shaping the invisible, holding it in awe.
These ever-opening chasms seek order,
where our echo loses repetition, perforates,
and escapes to become something new.
Redrawn, we attempt to paper the gaps,
the pits, the flaws, the empty sides.
In this complete circle we exist as we stand,
formed out of cold stone, yet malleable,
exuding warmth, reinventing a sub-time,
our walls disappearing in shared energy.
We plant hardy roots into the snug earth,
bury our feet, so verdant, into the dirt,
absorbing Mother Earth into us,
and inside us she opens up her heart.
Streaks of silver half-light will shield us,
our worn hides, from time external,
all the losses, the weathered storms.
It offers this distilled, knowing glow,
bestowed in love, reinvention and peace.
And ‘a sort of magic’ brings us out.
Copyright Vickie Johnstone, February 11, 2024

Saturday 6 January 2024

A Poem a Day (618): 48 years

Glynn Simmons, aged 70, was released from prison in July 2023. In December, he was declared innocent in the 1974 murder of Carolyn Sue Rogers. His is the longest-known wrongful conviction in the US.

According to Wikipedia, by February 2020, a total of 2,551 exonerations were mentioned in the National Registry of Exonerations in the US. The total time spent by these exonerated people in prison adds up to 22,540 years. 

As of January 2020, the Innocence Project has documented more than 375 DNA exonerations in the US. Twenty-one of these exonerees had been sentenced to death. The National Registry of Exonerations is a public database that records all exonerations in the US since 1989, including cases in which DNA played a limited or no role. In January 2020, the database contained more than 3,300 cases


48 years (a ghazal)



How would you feel if you won the day, your freedom,

knowing a cold white injustice stole away that freedom?


Uncomfortable are the seconds stretched long, nowhere to hide

in the void between hours where you pay for the guilty’s freedom.


The wronged speak from the same page, made silent, voiceless,

step inside themselves, knowing the state did slay their freedom.


There’s this physical cage and the one you build in your mind,

the one that tries to stop you breaking as you pray for freedom.


You line your walls with photographs, memories and people,

to warm you on these icy nights you cry weary for your freedom.


There’s a man who whistles each and every morning that he rises,

full of hope til nighttime strangles this poor grey semblance of freedom.


These steel bars can play a chord, tap a song, without dance.

This numbness devoid of motion makes us clay without freedom.


We wait in line, a queue with no end, our misery a silent hum.

We are not who we were when we could lay down in freedom.


Pink dawn throws light on our horizon, promises an ever-after,

a tomorrow when we can walk outside and feel okay, in freedom.


... and liberation


Someone told a lie, ignored the facts, and they sentenced you,

but you always knew you’d be handed back one day your freedom.


You drive beneath the strewn-out stars, down to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Seasons change, but it feels the same, this sacred way of freedom.


It’s a view you haven’t known for near five decades long,

but it’s like yesterday, and you savour this sweet sway of freedom.


Yours is the longest-known wrong conviction in all America.

And yours was the longest-ever pathway back to freedom.


You know they set you up and they paid no care about justice.

But this Christmas you ate with family, no castaway from freedom.


The real murderer, he’s still out there, I guess. He stayed silent.

But today you walk out high, walk proud this day in freedom.

Copyright Vickie Johnstone, January 6, 2024

Wednesday 27 December 2023

A Poem a Day (617): Woman paraded naked

Woman paraded naked
Stark headlines tilt sideways, rip ragged,
papers strewn waste in the sharpening rain.
Letters slide, seek a silenced escape,
a way out, an alternative way of being.
Dragged out, stripped, paraded naked,
tied to a telegraph pole and beaten to a bruise.
A mother. Red and blue. Red and blue. Red and blue.
Tears awash in our rain. We hurtle through.
The rescue party, we arrive too late by hours,
stand agape. A simmer of men eye the spectacle,
the debacle, the sex that causes such offence.
We are the few who disagree.
Her only son eloped before his wedding night,
so someone had to pay. Someone female. The mother.
She is the visible invisible, now safe, blanketed,
but trauma digs at the contours of her face.
It’s 4am. Someone blew the whistle.
A police officer who watched is suspended.
In the hospital, all is quiet. The walls bristle,
heavy with the weight of history. Female souls.
It permeates the corrugated roof. We watch it sag.
The rain sketches ever-increasing circles of light years.
The mother stares at the wall, seeks understanding,
but it stares back blankly. No words can explain.
All this water will never wash this foul shame away.
Her husband insisted they had not known,
their son had kept this other love a secret, hidden.
His lover flew her own gilded cage by night.
Outside, the men still loiter in the soiled street,
their uncorked outrage clouding the void.
The crowd will have scattered by mid-morning,
but history has already chalked them in.
This was an ‘inhuman act’, the authorities said,
gave the mother land, part of this country owned by man.
But this land had turned on her in her hour of need.
It had not forgiven her for being a woman.

Copyright Vickie Johnstone, December 27, 2023

I read about this incident on the BBC News today. Here, I have pasted part of the article:
“Cases involving assault of women are always under-reported because of shame. Families don’t come forward because it’s a matter of honour and the system does not support the survivors or give them a safe space to report these crimes,” says lawyer and rights activist Sukriti Chauhan.
In the National Crime Records Bureau database, disrobing is recorded under a broad description called “assault with intent to outrage [a woman’s] modesty”, which clubs the crime with cases of street harassment, sexual gestures, voyeurism and stalking. Last year, 83,344 such cases were recorded, with 85,300 affected women.
Link to story:

Monday 11 December 2023

A Poem a Day (616): The walk

The walk 

A cutting wind blows us in two,
peels back the edge of a buttercup carpet.
Olive stalks sway, fan this sunbathed land.
We hold nature at arm’s length, picture it
through a cold lens, frame it, silence it
when it needs to yell out loud and be released.
Slide your bare feet through the warm mud,
churning rivers between your toes. Sienna drips,
seeps down this canvas; fuel for the soul,
a gathering, a grounding for the city type.
We flit between our own flimsy self-images,
echoes of our childhood shadowed mirror-play.
Gnarly branches seek to press our stiff backs forward
down leafy, ground-out trails and grown-over mazes
into damp, mossy nooks and crooks of watery pearl,
these crumbling granite walls so cool to our fingertips.
Crows lift in a circling cloud and in the far view a single tree
stands statue-still, sketched in hollow against the light.
Copyright Vickie Johnstone, December 10, 2023

Sunday 10 December 2023

Little brainstorms (2-minute poems)

If you fancy writing some fiction or poetry, or reading other people's, head over to JD Mader's website, 2minutesgo... 

Some little brainstorms... 

In the gust
dust swells, panic caught,
misses a cue in the line.
A tumbleweed plays,
scrawls out your name
in the dirt,
leaves a memory
imprinted that neither one of us
wishes to recall.
I watch it skirt the road,
free, feeling it knows I’m right here,
just waiting for it to leave.

Wait on pause,
take a trip,
think it out,
delay the plan,
relate the way,
time it completely wrong,
say it in song,
say it isn’t right.
You can choose the date
or pretend to lose.
We fathom the night
in the close of day.
These are the hands
that wound the clock,
and clocking out,
they forgot to pray.

It’s a freefall,
endless. We are inclined
to be as we ever were,
without pretence,
No disguise.
No more than three words.
We are as the land wishes,
as the trees grieve,
as the ground breathes.
And nothing echoes aloud
except that which burned before,
ever here,
always now,
despite the years

In the mind of the other
we are one. As we might be,
as we might see, and be here,
waiting, knowing, seeing,
as calm as a blackbird.

Elfin forests,
crystal clear streams,
an endless dream of being,
where the twig-strewn ground breathes
in summer’s sway, where our feet tread,
sink into earth, just resting.
We are breath. We are here. We be.

In the unsung song we hear
the passing of a thought, a treasured
heart, a memory. The thing that fell foul,
the betrayal, the slip, the echo
of the abject thing. The bird caught,
the tripwire; this endless rebegin.
And we are heard sliding.
Here, there is no catch word,
no rail, no mat.
We are falling. And we are free.

In the morrow we will begin,
counting numbers,
drawing circles with our fingers.
This sand sinks, scuppers,
water fills. It’s a cue to bury it all,
seal it over, never
to be found.

The ancients stand tall,
stretch stone arms to the sky.
We are small. Astounded.
Can only stare up at the moon,
its sound rays crowning them,
the earth gathering dust.

A moonlight serenade
without harp or drum,
no voice, no harm, no motion.
Only quiet. And light. And devotion.
In this setting we are might,
we are ever, we are chosen.
Seated, the same. Just bones.

The applecart. Rocked. Smoked. Out.
The whodunnit. The mystery. 
Seeing all, he fans flames to the sky,
listens, draws a picture, imagines ruin.
It feeds it out, off the scale,
watches the burn.

Shadows mock the living,
line the roads for the forgotten,
the lost, the fragmented.
There once was water here.
Now there is an absence of it.
Where there was flow all is still.
In the moonlight, jagged bats flit,
avoid the cage drawing near.


In the walls.
Beneath sound.
Without a wakening.
They wander out,
They wander in
with a newfound thing.
Here is breath.
Without echo.

Copyright Vickie Johnstone, December 10, 2023