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‘Arc’ and ‘Clock Weather’.

Two poems.




Arc almost perfect in a perfect sky of early June
Blue still and alive with light
The red orb blackened as it gained height
And it was coming to me
Batted with a dancer’s ease
Certain, effortless, a pure dream of a thing, a spin too soon

There’s an unhappy moment of recalibration.
Distance, velocity and angle of fall
It’s a two-glove grab, if it’s anything at all
But it tricks the stretch, tricks the grasp
Slithers on sleek grass to the boundary, defies the petty calculation.

Your whites pile disappointed where they’re tossed
One by one, the others come in
No one mentions, or has to, the unforgiveable sin
Hanging in the air rank as blood
Or poison gas, or cancer; or by what margin the silly game was lost.


Cold weather’s at the door like a milkman with his bill
Some idiot child is setting off fireworks to frighten the dogs
Two streets over you can get every sort of hash and pill
From a hooded acne-victim who takes your cash and jogs
Into the faintly astringent dark, full of his own importance
As if this were a real job and a certain respect was due
I know nothing of this first-hand, of course, just by chance
You catch these little facts like a virus on the wind, you
Absorb them, and become immune. A flag of Palestine
Is struggling to stay aloof on a roof a few doors down
Every house is painted white-into-grey, until fine
Grains of salt driven up from the close-by sea ladle brown-
Red streaks like blood-spills from news videos down the wall
Cold weather’s at the door like a milkman with his bill
The sky folds in low as a shroud and you just manage to crawl
Under it; there’s someone in the kitchen – keep very still.

FRED JOHNSTON was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1951 and educated there and Toronto, Canada. His recent work has appeared in Stand, The Spectator, and The Irish Times.  His most recent collection of poetry is Rogue States (Salmon Poetry, 2019.) ‘I live in Galway, where I found Galway’s annual literature festival, CUIRT, in 1986.’


  1. wrote:

    For what it’s worth Fred, neither grabbed me. The first because I don’t understand the attraction of cricket. The second because I’m uneasy with end-rhymes, have even had trouble with Larkin’s forced rhymes. Sorry.

    Thursday, 23 June 2022 at 16:47 | Permalink
  2. wrote:

    Sam – ‘Tis all a matter of taste. I am sorry that you are uneasy with end-rhymes, however. They have been around for quite a while, and in my view, serve useful purposes. We live in an age where virtually anything goes as poetry and if end-rhymes do anything, they differentiate a poem from a piece of chopped-line prose. Hope you’re keeping well. .

    Friday, 24 June 2022 at 20:00 | Permalink
  3. wrote:

    Poetry is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. After the inspired first draft there comes the hard craft. Philip Larkin never let his poems be published until he had written and rewritten them. Same goes for short stories, novels and dialogue in plays. T.S.Eliot’s 1922 The Waste Land was a huge rambling mass of incoherent verse – some of it memorable – until Ezra Pound, ‘il miglior fabbro’ severely edited it down into a masterpiece. Good luck to poets who carefully hone their verse.

    Wednesday, 6 July 2022 at 18:58 | Permalink

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