Fall/Winter 2015-2016

Brian Johnstone


This is a private place. I can blow my horn as loud as I want.
Sonny Rollins

Someone had heard you up there, riffing
amongst the girders, rhythm-synching
with the trains, gulls rising in the updraft
of your breath. It’s beautiful, you said,

in all its emptiness – that expanse of bridge,
your passage to the silence that the city
took away. Two blocks from your apartment,
the walkway had drawn you up, called you

to take the stand. Its vacancy enticing,
the space you need to grow is somewhere
in the steel, the leaden sky. Case in hand,
you shamble towards the apex, stoop

and take your sax out of the plush, slot
neck to horn, and tongue the reed. The kid
who’d doorstepped Hawk for just a scrawl,
who’d trained up in the closet at his folks’,

blowing the changes out there on the span,
in space you never quite came back from,
(as the guys all said, not knowing what
to look for, you’d been shedding for so long);

seeking the notes you felt you could deliver,
bigger than your name. And can do now,
alone here, high above the slow East River,
deep and blue and choppy like your song.

after the film Who is Sonny Rollins by Dick Fontaine. From the collection Dry Stone Work (Arc Publications, 2013)

Brian Johnstoneís work has appeared throughout Scotland, in the UK, North America and Europe. He has published six collections, most recently Dry Stone Work (Arc, 2014), and his poetry appears on the UK Poetry Archive website. A founder and former Director of StAnza: Scotlandís International Poetry Festival, he has read at festivals from Macedonia to Nicaragua, and venues across the UK. brianjohnstonepoet.co.uk



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