Martin R Johnson

Martin R. Johnson has published three books of poetry: After the Axe-Men (Penguin), The Clothes-prop Man (Wakefield Press), and Home Town Burial (Cornford Press). A new collection, the earth tree, is due from Five Islands Press in June/July 2004.


She was in the Acapulco bar:
at 18
how could I resist the swell of her
pubic bone thrusting my hips
across a dance-floor throbbing,
pulsing music…

“She’s doin’ the fleet”
my mates all laugh
fuelling my optimism
as her skirt rode my underarm
in the back of a taxi…

………. morning shadows
oblique across sleeping breasts
strands of hair
the lines about her eyes and lips
brimming peace

as I tip-toe past the children’s room
with “Daddy – somewhere in Vietnam”
pinned to its door.

From Friendly Street No. 15

After the axe-men

Preferring his own company,
the modern day wood cutter
works alone, hidden from view
by tall plantations of pine.

And should you turn your motor off,
and wind down the window,
out on the distant highway,
you’ll hear the far-off buzz of his saw.

Closer, the indescribable sound
of splinters gargling down the throat
of a falling tree, the sharpened point
of a timber hook going soft

into pale log ends, echoing
strangely as they fall, heavy
with sap, into the heaps,…from where
he makes his way to refuel,

and in the silence that follows,
hears you drive away.

From Friendly Street No. 16

Recession Blues

He climbs through the window
every morning at 3 o’clock,
raids the breadbox
and drinks all the coke.

“Where’ve y’ been” – “Nowhere”
“Who y’ been with” – “Nowhere”
“What’re y’ goin’ t’ do” – Nowhere”
“Y’ know where you’re headed” – “Nowhere”

“When I was 16” – “Yeah”
“When I was 16” – “Yeah Yeah”
“When I was 16” – “Yeah Yeah Yeah”
“Well” – “Yeah”

“At least
I paid my own way”

“OK – OK.
Here’s 10 bucks.
Don’t be late.
Don’t be late.”

From Friendly Street No. 18