Brian Johnstone

The Whip Hand


Believing in the possibility of showtime

on the move,

that the sound of circus music blaring


from the speakers on the roof

means more

than silver in my pocket, pegs to hammer home,


I stake out another pitch and flatten grass:

for what?

The cheers, the hollow gasps, the silence


as I place my head inside each

lion’s mouth.

It’s not the teeth, the jaws I fear but seeing


deep into their eyes, each pupil blank

as every pitch

we quit, lifeless as the ground we pack so hard.




Brian Johnstone’s latest collection is The Book of Belongings (Arc, 2009). His work has appeared throughout Scotland and in the UK, America and Europe. He is a co-founder of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival and was Festival Director from 2001-2010.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *