Fred Johnston – Canticle

Johnston LE P&W February 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing February 2024.

Canticle, poem by Fred Johnston.


I was more than a little in love with Mary
From my schoolboy’s nest up top at the front of the ‘bus
I would see her waiting to board
Wearing the green uniform of the Fort of the Little Pony*
And the head of a pony was badged to her jacket
And the late afternoon went down on our Council estate

I could net the smell of her short hair faintly
From three seats over. Lust-sick enough for both of us
My clay-struck homunculus roared
Mutely with the violence of being young and lonely
The head of a pony was badged to her jacket
We kept no clocks, our unformed hearts would regulate

When we rose together abruptly
Descended the twisting stairs to step across
To the doors, intimate as skin; the big ‘bus snored
Itself hoarse and caressed the kerb for us gently
The head of a pony was badged to her jacket
And the late afternoon stumbled over our Council estate.

*The Fort of the Little Pony is a translation from the original Irish place-name.

© Fred Johnston

Fred Johnston was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1951. Working as a journalist for some years, he was a poetry reviewer with Books Ireland and The Irish Times, among other publications: he also reviewed for The Sunday Times and Poetry Ireland Review. His work, both prose and poetry, has appeared in The New Statesman, The Guardian, Stand, The Spectator, Iron, Orbis, The Irish Times, The London Magazine, The Dalhousie Review, The Sewanee Review, Southwards, The Moth, The Stinging Fly. Founder of CUIRT international literature festival (Galway,) his most recent poetry collection is ‘Rogue States’ (Salmon Poetry, 2019.) He is also a novelist and short story writer. He lives in Galway in the West of Ireland.

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