Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
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Vol. 1 No. 1 Oct 2001

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in memoriam Martin Johnson, 1947-90

Not the smoke from the truck driver’s cigarette
wreathed with gold by the early morning sun,
a delicate arabesque of light and shade —
                he’s unloading flagons of moselle,
                hock, white burgundy and claret
                in the driveway of the Toxteth Hotel —

Not the scent of meat hissing on the grill
at the Balkan — the tables are filling up —
early one evening somewhere in the seventies
as the shops along Oxford Street come alight,
buses winding through the traffic, and
                Nicholas puts up the Mickey Mouse poster
                in the window of Exiles Bookshop
                advertising a poetry reading —

Not the sound of his wife’s voice — ‘Oh,
put out your bloody cigarette
and stop snoring!’ — as she
                tucks the blanket in — late winter,
                the cat curled at the foot of the bed —

Not a tricky ploy with a bishop in the final moves
of a game that seems to have fallen into a pattern
remarkably similar to Botvinnik’s closing tactics
in the 1949 Russian Chess Championship — don’t you
                think? — the party still going at 4 a.m.,
                an old Miles Davis record on the gramophone,
                the ashtray spilling over — your move —  

Not the pop! as the cork
comes out of a bottle of cold retsina —
                Malamatina brand, the green and yellow label
                picturing a little man drinking
                from a tilted glass, the rays of sunlight
                blazing down from a Mediterranean sky —

None of these things can now delight
Martin Johnston, his journey at last
written out in full, Sydney to Sydney, via
                Greece, love, alcohol
                and the art of poetry.

By John Tranter

QLRS Vol. 1 No. 1 Oct 2001


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  Other Poems in this Issue

Fair Youth
By Arthur Yap.

On Offal
By Arthur Yap.

Incendium Amoris
By Alvin Pang.

Garden City
By Gilbert Koh.

My Father Growing Old
By Gilbert Koh.

By Megan Ng.

The Wandering Eye
By Dominic Chua.

Concealed Exit Ahead
By Yeow Kai Chai.


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