Sue Johns was born in Penzance, Cornwall in 1958 and now lives in South
London.Sue began writing and performing as a punk poet and is veteran of the
London circuit. She has performed at festivals and cabarets around the country as a
solo performer and with Dodo Modern Poets, has written and performed theatrical
monologues and worked with art/word collaborations.

Sue Johns has been widely published in magazines and anthologies including Time
for Song (Contemporary Cornish Poetry) Poetry News,The Morning Star, Prole,
Southbank Poetry, The London Magazine ,The Big Issue. The Atlanta Review and
Brittle Star.
She has published  a collection Tantrum, 1998 and a pamphlet A Certain Age, 2003.

Her collection Hush was published by Morgan’s Eye Press in 2011.
A new pamphlet, Rented has been published by  Palewell Press in April 2018. 
She is, currently, completing Track Record a pamphlet project inspired by trains
and studying for an MA in Writing Poetry.

 

Poems


  

God said… published in Prole, 2017

That I am stranger than the honey on my lips.

My mouth is as smooth as oil -

easing me along to a bitter end.

These stilettos are bound for hell.


I say couldn’t your son wash his own feet?

Don’t bring my hair into it

I’m dry-eyed and my perfume stays

right behind my ears.


My attic brings salvation to many men

and my walls don’t even crack.

This town isn’t Jericho baby -

I can worship the moon if I wish.


There is no faith to save me

I will not go in peace.

 


What Price? published in The Morning Star, 2017

Gold does not burn easily, it resides cool and calm
in the empty rooms of Kensington
which oligarchs, old money and fading pop stars
pass through when tiring of their first and second homes.

Where those, that can, will vote to price
the disaffected northward, where poverty has its place,
or towards the coast, past the holiday homes
to caravans, caves and the sea beyond.

The poor cannot stay in their cramped rooms,
silent, behind the cladding to reduce offence.
With The Community Centre and the Youth Club gone
where else but the streets?

Where they cannot be trusted because
they could be violent, because they are too many.
Too many, we are, smoked out of the capital's rebirth -
with the heavy air whispering murder.

The city must hear itself above its consumption
for those who have thrown their children,
blindly, into the waiting arms of hope
and turned to melt within their wedding rings.


 

Watching Promise  published in Poetry News, 2017

across The Square,
from under the tabby nets,
it seems a client has left her a gift.
My guess is a filthy finger nail
got married to her oily hip
and fathered some pus just out of reach
because she's using some dirty dance-moves
to squeeze it.

Promise knows this isn't like the hand-jobs
we give, off the kerb, ending in a heavy spurt.
This is a wound that'll spread
and come back weeping across an angry border.
It reminds me of those new girls,
when they stray into a foreign postcode.

Promise needs to put on the slippers
that make her look free again
(though she's formidable in heels)
and pay a visit to the prissy chemist

who will be relieved (not,) to be asked
for ‘Morning Afters' or a cream for ‘crabs',
though she'll still dispense that look
she reserves for an entire continent
watching Promise, bounce her box-braids
out of there with a crash
and the door-bell pinging.

This is our healing-time.
My friend rubs antiseptic
into the wet of her back-fat as The Square
takes a communal draw to the lungs,
watching Promise unlock her milky windows
to lie with her legs wide open
and let in some air.


 

Flight

 

1.

I was a cuckoo child, left by a consumptive widow

on the wing. My nest a tied-cottage that already housed

a pair of weaving daughters. But a boy does not need looks

to marry. I had a body that could work the land

and survive a journey on a train, though I’d yet to see one.

The estate will not be cleaved, sheep blackened

or hunting routes halted by clattering iron

Cheshire’s ‘old money’ bellows from the library.

Safe with our cows and cabbages we did not fear machinery

until a mutation came, tested our steepest gradients

and sang like thrushes their chorus of steam – the power

that could smash the slow way we moved within our shells

and pull us wriggling from the soil.

The Young Lord, schooled only in gambling and buggery,

enters politics and his family raise a toast.

To the railways and their generous compensation.

 


2.

I am cursed by my past complaints:

milking at first light,

the inadequate plough,

poaching in the dank woods.

There is an uncommon mourning

for what was never your own.

Inside the mills of Manchester

we call the countryside.

The overseers, like crows,

have a memory for faces.

They recognise our youngest

not from her missing fingers

but by the look she wears

since they came, as a murder,

to cut off her hair.


3.

As the first locomotive

pulls into Liverpool Road,

behind the blanket

that divides

our damp basement,

my sisters are dreaming

of screech owls.

 


 

Trope

 

Her hair is perfect. The train

is delayed, spluttering at the junction

between farce and misogyny -

there is still hope.

 

Her eyes are crying for help -

a hero who is forever

and not just for railway disasters.

 

Her open mouth -

a black and white scream

with laconic titles.

 

She is arranged on the track,

as if she’s been sweet-talked into it.

 

Her dress, of white satin, is spotless

there is no suggestion that beneath it

she pisses, bleeds

or evacuates her bowels.

 

She will bare nothing above the calf,

this is family entertainment.

 

Soon you may not see her at all -

with the focus on the villain’s top-hat,

the twiddle of his moustache,

the rope.