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Autobiography               Now

Renaissance Man in Trouble           The Depth of Field dilemma and the hooks





My thoughts feel tight this morning,

flat and black but a trifle constricting. Flirt

with the desk clerk -

not too much - he may be useful later.

Early on, while I had yet to place my first story,

I wanted a way to support myself and still have time to write.

Many girls I knew in that state

moved into the sex industry.

You have to remember I'm so good

I work only two days a week,

so I still had the energy.


An admirer gave me my first pistol as protection.

I soon found I had a knack, grew used to more money

than I got from the magazines. I can feel the hard shape,

like a flat black automatic thought, tucked in the back

of the waistband under my jacket. The spare clip

a weight in my pocket I don't need.

Better travel light or be prepared? I walk tense

to be sure it won't slip down and give me away,

sit up straight so it doesn't dig in.


It's a new gun, not cheap but untried

and may not be reliable. When I find a Ladies

I can check the safety. I have painted

my eyes and brows into a perfect butterfly to distract

from my corrupt thoughts, my dark lips,

the mulberry lips, that powerful black pout.



Charles Johnson

first published in Braquemard, September 1997






Now that I'll never see you again

I have drawn blinds half over

the windows at my work desk.

The drawer half-open, like a miser

I have counted my medallions,

seeing for the first time

that they are plaster facsimiles

and I have only nine -

number of incompleteness.


And because we may not meet again

my chessboard is broken. Too late

I realise how I enjoyed our games.

I should have been more attentive,

wholehearted. Now you will teach

chess to others.


Now that I may never see you again,

my head is like a painted plywood diagram

of brain, eye and the machinery

of feeding and breathing. Food, air,

even to see and think, have been drained

of interest and joy.


Now that I might never see you again

a dark column rises through

the centre of my life, topped with

archaic motifs that mean nothing to me.

It threatens to upset my perspective

like a new dictator from a neighbouring state

whose language we did not learn.


I may see you again walking out of earshot

in the garden beyond the window

I cannot open. Strange horses' heads

try to speak to me when I sleep.



Charles Johnson

published in A Brush with Words: catalogue of a collaborative exhibition by artists of the Royal Academy Schools Alumni and the Border Poets, at Martin's Gallery, Cheltenham, October 2005





Renaissance Man in Trouble


Outside there are sounds like Sunday morning.

Church bells, distant guns. Nearer to, whistles

as the off-duty volunteer police

quarter the hillside above the footie field.

A shout as they recognise Buonarrotti

huddled among the blocks, disguised

as a quarryman, paranoid.



Charles Johnson

published in The Long-Islander, July 2005





The Depth of Field dilemma and the hooks



When for my project: Hotel Toilets of America

I focus my Pentax

with the close-up filter

on the nearer

of the double

chrome hooks

back of the lavatory door,

wherever does the further

prong go as I watch it blur

away to nothing in the glass box

of the viewfinder?


It can't be nowhere,

can't that moment cease

to exist in any sense,

has simply chosen absence,

to cover its tracks,

seem to disappear

like the cleverer daughter.


I should maybe say Shallowness: a paradox.



Charles Johnson

published in Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Vol II, 2004


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