Lorne Johnson

I was born in Sydney in 1972. I currently teach English in a Loreto Sisters secondary school in Sydney. My work has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, Eclogues (The 2007 Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology), The Big Issue, Spinach 7 (online), Vegan Voice, The Drum Media, The Brag and 3D World. My poetry was highly commended in The Broadway Poetry Prize 2004 and The Inverawe Poetry Prize 2007. I am passionate about bird watching, traveling about Australia and the electro-reggae band Dreadzone. I am married and have a baby boy.


Trolley Man

For over twenty years you pushed your trolley between Sydney’s glass and chrome
with a red crash helmet protecting your imagination from having a head on with reality.
Hunched like Atlas during his nursing home years, villagers who worship rice,
you were this bitumen Bedouin who’d arrived from the far corners of abstraction,
never the Central Business District’s central business, but always mine.

Your ambiguity unhinged me; your tongue carried the weight of Bedlam’s flare; your
ubiquitous presence provided this surrogate backbone through my edgy Marist
testosterone years. Along with the Monorail’s click-clack glide-hum, Club 77’s pop arc,
the hanging whale geometry in the Australian Museum foyer, neon-smacked vegetable
boxes in Dixon Street and whispers within St. Mary’s Gothic skin, you were my Sydney.

Your origins and the contents of your trolley were the stuff of Holt’s conclusion.
The dove-hearted who fed the wandering bed cravers said you were a shipwright and a
knife-sharpener. Homeless men with ashy cigar toes and Orc profiles said your trolley
contained old letters and photos from a frozen bullet space you’d fled. To open truth, one
would have to make a point of cross-questioning the pointers of The Southern Cross.

The only certainty is that in nineteen ninety-four, you pushed your fading street-life
into the gardens between The Domain and the cool jade lapping that defines us. Amidst
weaves of lush multicultural foliage, under a sweaty scarlet sky cooled by the wing flap
of fruit bats, you sat facing The Bridge’s inverted robot-smile, shut your eyes and waited
for the long golden afternoon to cave in on you and your bright dancing secrecy.


Sixteen Pieces from the Forty Weeks of Pregnancy

On Christmas morning, after months of hollow days, you whisper, “There’s someone
who wants to meet you”.

Praline butterflies, chocolate bilbies, Iranian floss-candy; sweeter than all these Easter
gifts, the knowledge that our child blooms within its rich, dark egg.

My ear on the side of the most buoyant balloon… under nine layers of skin, the magic
mammalian swish cycle.

Off Mistral Point, in splattering skua weather, a humpback spy hops. If it were to dive
after drifting unicellular snacks, perhaps their breech baby would finally face downwards.

At the ultrasound checkup, a midwife uses her Christ-pen to find the beating bubble, and
next to it, the blackest of holes from which fragile primal light tried to escape.

For that divine moment of release, you will concentrate on peony roses opening in
spring-shine; I will recall fluid falcon flight through The Valley of The Winds.

From the neighbour who talks to The Southern Cross at four a.m., barks at laughing
children and fears visiting her letterbox, an article under our door on raising healthy

At the antenatal class, the kebab king said his wife would have to work in their restaurant
up until the birth, so they’d reserved table nine for the delivery.

Tunes by Mahler, Ravel, Sigur Ros: daily aural Valium for delaying the inevitable, acute

In the private Royal Prince Alfred room, a melting mother cradles her hour-old twins in
the half-light of late dusk. By the bedside, her husband, in a Wallabies jersey, gives in to
the heaviness of it all.

During the Calmbirth sessions on Merrigang Street, Bowral, a merry gang of expectant
couples learned to breathe for the first time.

With her three-year-old on her lap, the Newtown back street soprano says, “Before I gave
birth for the second time I ate chilli chips, drank Cascade and went on the swings at
Enmore Park for half the day.”

How there must always be poetry within the delirium of sleeplessness.

Whilst watching Desperate Housewives, you hum private melodies and your hands move
slowly over your swelling belly, as if God conjuring Earth-stillness.

Between every layer of tiredness, the dramatic acrobatics of our weightless little
astronaut, rocketing towards his or her new sun.

This never-ending heady longing to meet our child’s midnight banshee guise and that
first ever smile that has the potency to soften extremists and inject this fearful age with
the sugar-stuff of afterlife.