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 and also writes and performs theatrical monologues.
Sue has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, most recently Time for Song a collection of Cornish poetry (Morgan's Eye Press, 2009) She has published five collection of poetry:
Hearfelt 1989, Safe as Houses 1992, Black Dress 1995, Tantrum 1998,
A Certain Age 2003
A new collection Hush (Morgan's Eye Press, 2011) is now available.

 

Poems


  

Cur

‘There has been a number of instances of criminal damage to trees in this park...caused by dog owners training certain breeds to attack trees...trees are now dying as a result of this'
Extract from a sign in a London Park

Do you miss the birdsong from the Crabapple?
Remember the confetti from the Hawthorn
and Cherry, proclaiming Spring,
before the Mastiffs stripped them bare?

I have packed away the picnic rug,
the wicker basket and the paper cups.
Since the Hounds took to hunting the Ash and the Elm
under which we shared sandwiches and wine.

I knew when the Lap-dogs came
out from under the skirts of dowagers,
jumping and swinging from the burnished branches,
there would be no more Chestnuts on the fire.

And, by the time you read this, the Bull Terriers
will have warred with the Holly and Mistletoe.
There will be no greening of mantels this Christmas,
and our kisses will flounder under distressed pine.


Hormonal Sentience (Bush walk, South Africa)

Trees are telling tales -
murmuring to the neighbors
in ethylene, to fill their leaves with tannin,
make themselves distasteful
to hungry browsers.

Trees speak, as they did
when man's mimicry
was all but animal.
In the days of stone shapes
and fire miracles. When language
rolled in with the wheel.

Mopane trees; added their tongue
to the clicking consonants
of Khosian, the long Dutch vowels.
When the first ship anchored
at The Cape and unloaded its cargo
of dubious futures.

Acacia trees; wept with
The Abolitionists, mused
on the passing of mules and wagons,
the death of each warrior,
every red-coated column
and debated the true price of gold.

Trees, in yellow-flowered frocks,
gossiped and prayed each summer
long, sang anthems, cast
their ballots in the breeze.
As freedom was islanded
in the time of monochrome.

Trees, with rebel pheromones,
collude at sunrise.
When shots ring from the mines
and each thrumming shanty
surrenders its contents
to the needs of the sparkling towns.

Hormonal Sentience: Information exchange between plants membership no 60299


 The Goose the Ghost and the Man                                                                             

The Clink was my manor where I still reside with the whores

(The Winchester Geese), the paupers, the dispossessed.

In the still of a twenty first century Sunday to the rattling of trains,

in the shadow of The Shard, through the countless

skulls and syphilitic bones, it is as goose I rise.

 

Not a bird fattened in the cloisters destined

for a Christmas plate, I am heroin chic,

super model thin as I slip through The Red Gates.

I caress its ribbons, poems, its tiny bears, a shrine

to the ‘working girls’ homespun and trafficked.

 

From my sisters of the past to those

who trade on the pavements of London,

Birmingham, Nottingham. Snuffed out

like the candles nestling in the weeds they

will burn again as the stones are turned to beating organs.

 

I honk and glide over the rooftops the narrow

streets no longer running with stinking waste,

over the Bishop’s ruins whose coffers

held the rent from the lodgings

where I spread my legs.

 

Where people make a game of history

at the Golden Hinde gift shop and gloat

at the gory prison where my mother fell to jail fever.

Over The Cathedral where I whispered

my unanswered prayers to St Mary Overie.

 

Over the market where I sold myself

at Southwark Fair. The wharfs that knew

mob rule, that rocked to music

and pleasures of the flesh, now

sterile boxes to seal the wealthy off.

 

Hissing over the singing Thames

to the seats of government, law, and finance -

the old haunts of the father I never knew.

I seek a certain type of gentleman.

I enter the safe sleep of lawyer, judge, stockbroker, priest.

 

In dreams they wrestle me in my room

at The Anchor their portly bodies

enfolded in my wings. With a scratching in their groins

they awake perspiring on feather pillows

beside their cold and tidy wives,

 

dress to face an innocent morning, soap

me from their shiny skins. In hangman tight

ties, mildly harassed by the half-digested grass

upon their stairs they pause in doorways,

prepare to stride their importance into the light.

 

Before I launch, take flight to Crossbones,

their feet embed themselves in my excrement,

with a final twist of my elegant white neck

I rip through expensive shoe leather

and peck at their adulterous heels.

 

Crossbones Cemetery is the sight of a medieval burial ground in Southwark, London. Originally created for prostitutes known as The Winchester Geese, after The Bishop of Winchester whose title  permitted prostitution on the South bank, for 400 years, in return for rent from the brothels. 


 


Barrel Bomb

 

In a city where sirens hush the night creatures

and every morning is eaten off a knife. A widow comes

to breakfast on blood and masonry, plucking my

debris from the earth. The furrows of her palms are

ignorant of their cargo, as are the soles of her feet.

I am the penitent beggar at the heel of her

broken shoe. Sister! I cry in silence. Cast me skyward,

stop this mortiferios rain. Reverse my unguided fall,

refill me with oil. Remove my bearings from

the shredded limbs, return them to industry. Take me

back to scrap and pig-iron, have the furnace, re cast me

as a bed pan or scalpel. bring the nails from the hospital –

the ones that took the eye, the nose, the tongue.

Re-invent them as a trundle cot or crutches.


 

Coroner’s Report

 

They call you

Gentleman

Then list the quantities of

Heroin, crack and alcohol

 

Head injuries

Cellulites

(Heh, no wonder you were depressed)

The groin abscess

Injected just the day before

 

Nicotine on your fingers

Dirt under your nails

(No lipstick on your collar)

 

Asthmatic

‘Keep that cat off his bed’ Mum said

Hepatitis

C

 

Unwashed feet

Time of death

 

Lungs congested,

Kidneys disintegrated

But sorry mate your

Intestines were unremarkable