Transparent Words - Poetry


4 poems by Dorrie Johnson





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.

Mothers explained.

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,

irrepressible Spirit

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.






They were

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,

(creases etched)

a baby’s photograph

and letters -

and all the names in them

blacked out.


It must have been her

but why for heaven’s sake?

She wasn’t that sort of person,

hating sentiment,

thinking it indulgent -

as stiff and unyielding 

as her own mother’s corsets.





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.

Flatter-footed joggers,

flagging, gasp

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.





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.




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