Freedom: Brian Johnstone, Frank Dullughan, Marcelle Olivier for National Poetry Day



The Branded Hand

This Daguerreotype was taken Aug. 1845. It is a copy of Captain Jonathan Walker’s hand as branded by the U.S. Marshall of the Dist. of Florida for having helped 7 men to obtain ‘Life Liberty, and Happiness.’ SS Slave Saviour Northern Dist. SS Slave Stealer Southern Dist.         Inscription on reverse of photographic plate.

They printed this in Florida,
a slave state still in forty-five,
its marshal with the power
to mark a man for life. Yet,

he can’t have lived for long
till someone in New England
passed comment on his scars,
desired that he submit again

to steel that clamped the arm
lest movement spoil a plate
and new technology distort
the marks that he displayed,

his palm extended, opened
to their lens. As it had been
to coals, to branding irons,
the double S that found him,

in The South, slave stealer,
thief of someone’s property
he only saw as fellow men
in need. But, in The North,

a saviour offering the chance
for freedom crossing borders
meant to those who’d borne
the scars or more themselves

in multitudes, unrecorded,
never photographed, but
fixed, as is this single print,
in time, a record of its hand.



Brian Johnstone’s work has published six collections, most recently Dry Stone Work (Arc, 2014), and his work appears on The Poetry Archive website. His memoir Double Exposure was published by Saraband in February 2017.

*First published in Liberty Tales (Arachne Press, 2016)




When a bomb un-housed us,
I gave what money I had
to a man with a boat.

Her life will be large in Germany, he said.
My sister will keep to her side.
My travel must wait until there is more money.

This chance was my daughter-gift.
I sent her into the dark,
watched the bob of the boat become water.

She fell off the edge
of my heart. I go each day to the sea,
watch in vain for a note from her future.

Sometimes I go down at night
when the far shore is closer.
My neighbour’s child was taken by soldiers.

We live now on broken streets.
My daughter is becoming a woman.
At night, I can feel her

looking over her shoulder.
I went with the chance of a chance
when I sent her. There are no gifts left

that do not hold a hurt.
Daughter, do not look back.
I sent her to the dark of the far shore

from this place of death.
I gave her to the living world,
paid the ferryman.



Frank Dullaghan, widely published internationally, lives in Dubai. His 4th collection Lifting the Latch is due out from Cinnamon Press in May 2018.




this miscellany is a herd of blushing
puku rusting out life

on the banks of a grim and sandy river.
embarrassed for running

when the time comes, still just wanting
to be near water.



marcelle olivier is poet and archaeologist living in Cambridge. She has published regularly in both her native South Africa and in the UK and you can read some of her translations of contemporary South African poetry in the edited collection in a burning sea (Protea, 2015).



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