Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
28 May 2015

“Gone native“: a new poem by Fred Johnston

By Fred Johnston

Up before dawn, the garden gone Jurassic and ominous
Uncharted, whole tribes could be hiding down there
The smell of weak sun varnishing the larger leaves, sending
Up the old primæval musk, snakes and apples, an oafish Eden–

I’ll take a scythe to it one day, one afternoon, gather myself
Slow-stepping into the undergrowth, bible in a free hand
Solar topee hammered on my head, bloated with God’s edicts
Listen for vipers and worse things slicking in the sharp grass

The source of the Nile is somewhere between my window
And the breeze-block wall; I might do a Kurtz and disappear
I ought to disappear, I’ve been mapping myself for too long
Only the thin frugal smoke of my fire, only a rusting blade

Here I’ll give myself new names in magical computations
Sit cross-leggéd on the mulch and work through malaria
Chant obscenities to make rain, hear other people’s radios
Edge closer, the plunder of distant traffic, the grass growing

There’ll be a girl laughing in a spasm over the horizon
A dog’s bark, the sound of cutlery on dinner plates –
By then I’ll be somewhere and someone else, gone native
Ghosty in my green-black back garden, a man translated.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Fred Johnston was born in Belfast and lives in Galway, where he founded the Western Writers’ Centre. His most recent collection of poems is Alligator Days, published by Revival Press.

Content from our partners
“I learn something new on every trip"
How data can help revive our high streets in the age of online shopping
Why digital inclusion is a vital piece of levelling up