ANDREW JOHNSTON

From the sequence 'Do You Read Me?'

ALPHA

Beware of wolf logic 
as you would be wary of

bumping your head in the mountains, 
reaching for something to say—

wolf-teeth in your shoulder
wanting you to howl:

make yourself a mountain—
full of weather, but

a mountain, 
even so.

 

BRAVO

Every gesture offers
this possibility

but there will be no applause
for even the most beautiful of your thoughts—

the one in which you wash ashore, beyond thought,
and set off into the hinterland

of laughter and 
suffering. So

in advance, over and over, 
forever let me say bravo.

 

CHARLIE

Whatever you do don’t
do that—

Charlie hurts, and Charlie,
the mention of his name—

he got sent off
to hospital—

if you see Charlie
but you won’t see Charlie—

he was brown, 
I broke him down.

 

SIERRA

I was angry with my brother—
couldn’t he see? I had so many bags

to carry across the hills.
There was nothing he could do.

He tried to give me money.
He was not my brother.

Then my anger left me, it was just
something else to carry

up the steep ridge that fell away steeply
on both sides of the family.

Andrew Johnston lives in Paris. His latest book of poems, Sol, was published by Victoria University Press in 2007 and by Arc (UK) in 2008.

Johnston comments: ‘“Do You Read Me?” started off as a sequence for my son Oscar when he was born in Wellington in 2007 (in the radio alphabet, O is Oscar and P is Papa, which is what he calls me). I wanted it to be a collection of dubious advice from father to son, but it has turned out to be just another machine designed to get me to write. So it has become a grab-bag of anecdotes, dreams, nightmares, delirium—just your average unfinished poem sequence, in other words. But there is some advice, especially in “Alpha.” “Sierra” is a dream poem.’

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