3 Poems by Rosie Johnston : “Blood Stains on the Stones” “Other-Mother” & an extract from “Six-Count Jive”

Blood stains on the stones 	
(for my therapist)

Wolf-memories weave around my legs. 
Docile now. 
I tiptoe. Whisper. 

Wolf-memories startle. Leap up, snap,
shove me over,
rip at my throat.

Wolf-memories lap my blood, slump
against my rib-cage,
snarl in their sleep.

Wolf-memories wake when they like.
Leave 
when they like. When they have done with me. 

Wolf-memories rise, shake free, lick
themselves clean.
Saunter outside. Sated.

Sunlight through curtains. I 
finger-search 
for wounds. Test my feet beneath me. 

Each fray with the wolves leaves me 
stronger,
you say. More restored. 				I hate wolves. 

Other-Mother

In the close of a nightmare’s eye, I’m seven again
back from school,
alone.
A walk of a mile down the road to the big shops, a dash
across it to where she left me once, her heart so
high with dresses and hats, she forgot I might
need help up into the bus behind her.
‘The long face on the wean,’
she laughed later.
‘Tears trippin’ it.’
I don’t remember tears. I do still
see the twisted shout-face on her - yet again I botched
her life - and me left on the pavement still shiny wet in my memory.

Other days we were a foursome, or a threesome and me:
my brothers happed up emperor toddlers under the pram hood
in her triangle of intimacy. The pram handle was mine,
its stream of chrome reflections a world away from her voice.

The house is closed. Locked up. I’m round the back, sopping in drizzle.
I need to pee. Overcome and standing there, I feel it hot
down my legs into my shoes.
On no, the shoes.
I cry I cry
for the smacks to come,
bruises will scud through her anger,
join the storm clouds already on my legs,
I cry, I cry all downfall.
The swing of the side gate, no coat, no time, her raw vowels never so welcome, here’s Ruby
and I’m up in her arms, the red felt hat pinned to her perm, a squeezed cig in flow: ‘I’m
baking curny scones,’ she says, ‘come on and help me.’ Her kitchen fug swirls around me.
Off come the guilty shoes. Persian cats pick through flour scattered wide across her table.
One sits on my bare feet. Hot milk, by the Raeburn. Ruby’s laughter billows, childless Ruby,
my other mother, who other-mothers all us quiet ones, she talks. We talk. We sing together:
‘My aunt Jane, she called me in’.
I am noticed.
When my shoes are dry enough, we tuck blackberry plants into their garden beds. My job is
to wrap muck around their feet to keep them warm until the spring, minding for thorns while
the big russet leaves lick and tickle my hands. Planted in October rain, Ruby says, they’ll root
throughout the hail and snow. Next year’s berries juicier for their hard start.
Hunkered together, we hear the car in the road. Ruby’s
stubby fingers rush to brush
my palms clean
in sunlight.

From Six-Count Jive (Lapwing Publications, Belfast, 2019) 

Lie soft, gentle winged creature, roped and dazed;
you’re safe,
unless you struggle

She steadies her breathing,
sips again,
engrossed by the jangle of ice.

That week-old bruise. Its slanting
rainbows
seem to offer distant rescue.

Between past hells and future
heavens,
this moment poises sacrosanct.

The secret hauls at its chain,
bellows,
surges loose into the court room.

A problem shared is a problem
shattered,
carried in the wind for miles.

She lives in a glacier.
Loved ones
reach for her, their smiles fracturing.

‘I’ve got what I want’ - she
shuts the door
in her empty room - ‘solitude’.

‘I’ve got what I needed’ - she
locks the door
of the empty room - ‘safety’.

‘I’ll learn to love it’ - she
hugs herself
in the empty room - ‘loneliness’.

In her serrated cavern, alone,
she yells,
hears rebounding silence.

Brimful of hope: unlike
yesterday,
tomorrow could have yes in it. 

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Rosie Johnston

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Rosie Johnston

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Rosie Johnston’s four poetry books are published by Lapwing Publications in her native Belfast, most recently Six-Count Jive (2019), a description in 17-syllable stanzas of the inner landscape of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Last December Irish poetry blogger Billy Mills chose it as one of his top three Irish poetry books of 2020. Rosie’s poems have appeared or featured in the Mary Evans Picture Library’s Poems and Pictures blog, London Grip, Culture NI, FourxFour, The Honest Ulsterman, Ink, Words for the Wild and Hedgerow. Anthologies include Places of Poetry (OneWorld, 2020), Her Other Language (Arlen House, 2020) and Live Canon’s ‘154 Project: In Response to Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ (2016). Before poetry led her astray, Rosie’s two novels were published in Dublin and Ireland. Her first story in ten years will appear in the American Writers Review literary journal for 2021. She was poet in residence for the Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust until she moved to live by the sea in Kent, UK http://www.rosiejohnstonwrites.com