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.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. 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.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

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
What are the green skills of the future?
A global hub for content producers, gaming and entertainment companies in Abu Dhabi
Insurance: finding sustainable growth in stormy markets