"Gone native": a new poem by Fred Johnston

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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.

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.

This article appears in the 21 May 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The real opposition