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  • Filíocht Nua:New Poetry
  • Fred Johnston (bio)

in memoriam: John Hogan,
poet, d. August 20, 2019


Take today and square it in a frameLet visitors see it first thing in the doorGive it prominence, yesterday was not the sameTomorrow's a loose-hinged doorToday things happened: sign your name.

We should be so lucky when the timeComes, to know our margin when it's setThere's nothing else to do but pass the timeOr hang a notice on the heart: Space To LetRough-swaddled in a gin-and-lime

It's damnably hard, this long sitting hereWaiting for an answer, no questions askedIt comes to all of us, there or here,Or in the middle, and all we're taskedWith is to find a decent dark suit to wear

It's timetables now, and the weight of timeAnd a handful of pebbled untillable earthFaces unmissed for years, a sublimeSense of déjà vu, but never rebirthA convulsion of hands, the need for reason, rhyme. [End Page 72]


This is the weather when dogs die in locked carsTarmac melts like ice cream, beered-up swimmers drownWhen doors are left open to the insect chitter of radios:Grandmothers wear shorts discreetly in their walled gardensFeeble flowers die off and refugees float cruciform facedownAcross the pixelated pages of red-top newspapers

There are temperature warnings and warnings of exposureTo sunlight. We are told what winds deliver the high pressureAnd how long we might reasonably expect it to stay:Warned of cancers hibernating in our lucent northern skinToo much wine drunk in the sun brings migraine-level painThis is what it must be like in Syria, Saudi, or Gaza

Tabloid photographers aim for money shots of girls in bikinisLaid out like dead dolls in public parks. Or royals in see-throughSkirts. Hotter here today than in Riyadh. Hotter than FuengirolaThe elderly are particularly vulnerable to this kind of weatherAnd very young children left in hot cars. Sunblock sales are up.Very cold drinks can be dangerous. Stay cool. [End Page 73]

fox at night

What is his purpose, dodging bright lights like a drunkMan, hedging here and there, guilty as sin?Walls and wire reinforce his lunatic determinationHe's a crackhead using the high for bravery, or he's a murdererAn insane lieutenant or a wife beater,A sower of bombs watching the clock, a cute-faced suicideOr, to be generous, a loner cursed with insomnia looking forA twenty-four-hour supermarket—

He gets away with it, the unspoken crime or violationOr the brazen stroll among knife childrenOr angry wheels: he wants to drone missiles into weddingsBut this is the limit, cruising for scraps, patrollingBlack bin liners full of kiddie-shit, tampons and empty tinsThe cruelty of that, the rage, the insultThe price on his head, the label of vermin—Like thirst, a need to be numbered among the righteous. [End Page 74]


Sitting in the car, dodgy as you likeAt the supermarket doorsI see some I knewComing and going, bent over trolleysLike slave laborers in wartime photosOut-of-focus, blurred, fugitive

One or two wounded, hesitant, carefulChance the pathway from newsagentTo bookmaker's, under orders—It's a strange theater, this, until you arriveAnd drop the curtain. We can lieSafely now, that we are immeasurably different

Run by other rules. Above it all.When did these others put their hands upAllow themselves to be shunted offSheeped into line? Not us. They are not us.So we tell ourselves, driving awayUnbalanced, fretting with the best of them. [End Page 75]

For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.
shakespeare, romeo and juliet

crime scene

She said Come over, we'll have a good time.After midnight, the streets were wet and empty

I had to use her gate phone to get the passwordIt was like a scene from a scary movieThose black iron bars folding back...


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pp. 72-78
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