Transparent Words - Poetry
4 poems by Dorrie Johnson
REMEMBERING VIVIENNE R
The class stirred.
Vivienne had died.
She’d be stiff, dry, like the hamster.
Her desk was empty.
The girl who’d shared it
now shared with someone else.
Vivienne was dead,
she was not coming back.
She’d had a cold.
Her throat was sore.
She was away.
We’d all had colds,
all stayed at home
but we’d returned when we were better.
Low in her throat
a little piece of skin had grown.
She could not breathe.
Anna and I looked
in the washroom mirror,
mouths wide open,
and could see a hanging of skin.
We breathed hard to be sure that we could and raced home.
At nine years old we learned unease.
Your lively bones,
fire to ash.
A sudden twisting current
catches the scatter
to dust a few snowdrops
in the decaying leaves,
frost my shoes,
mist the air.
I hear you laugh.
THE OLD SHOE BOX
in the old shoe box,
the brown stiff box
my father’s shoes came in -
always too big for me to step into.
Such odd things:
A pair of walking socks,
rings, a silken scarf,
a baby’s photograph
and letters -
and all the names in them
It must have been her
but why for heaven’s sake?
She wasn’t that sort of person,
thinking it indulgent -
as stiff and unyielding
as her own mother’s corsets.
MEMORIAL PARK ON MONDAY MORNINGS
It was opened in tribute,
a recognition of sacrificial duty.
Memorial trees have grown to maturity
between formal bed and football pitch.
Toe-down runners focusing on marathons
race the paths.
past buggy pushers tweaking quilts,
as toddlers drag on reins.
Low shouldered, swaddled, older people
nod greetings, savour the hours.
With leads hanging loose,
overly casual, owners stoop to scoop;
arc sticks for panting retrievers.
A father hides
and seeks his son
round the Memorial steps.
Plaques go grey beneath the trees.
THINKING ABOUT WRITING
Poetry is a vocation
deployed in performances, readings, anthologies.
Stylistically and thematically diverse,
one of its habitats is right in my living room.
At the kitchen table, with only feline company,
I make collages from music and moments -
not mad about literary ability.
Phrases of perfect clarity elude.
Language, by the power of symbols
synthesises; approaching rhythm
and metric value
command its complexity
in terms off the abiding aesthetic
artists have always produced.
Strangle critical thought in a noose of reviews,
allow an audience to drift in and out
making its own meaning.