Brian Johnstone




Surfin’ Safari for a Small Town Boy

The best pop is like a rush of lust – Alastair McKay


The deuce coupe threads the dunes, back of the sands:

her daddy’s car, but he will understand


that parties must be seized, she says, like days,

thrown as hand-made pots, agreed the way


they’ve signed their surfboards, waxed them down

like documents.  In this grey town


the sounds of doo-wop only surface from the drains

that overflow, the malice of late summer rains


determined in their pock-marked progress

over sands and shallows, all that acned skin, to mess


up every wrung out joy that they display,

gleaming in convertibles: the Wilsons, Jardine, Love, gay


in some forgotten sense.  The discs stack up,

the portable Dansette slaps platter on to platter, enough


to wind the provost up, his bike a solitary patrol

against the shameless pleasure of it all.


Awful in his cycle clips, flat cap, he gets around, his face

a sucked in breath of disapproval.  Go on, chase


the blues away before he gets on to your back.

The surf is up.  The wind is from the north.  But fuck,


all summer long this is as good as it will get.  The needle

hits the groove.  Love’s voice.  You paddle


out beyond the waves, youth tied on with a cord.

She watches you, God only knows, holds your reward


in supple limbs.  You feel the surge.  You sing it.  Sea

rips at your board.  She says: sing it one more time for me.




Brian Johnstone’s latest collection is The Book of Belongings (Arc, 2009). His poetry has appeared throughout Britain, in America and Europe. His poems have been translated into over 10 different languages. In 2009 Terra Incognita was published by L’Officina (Vicenza).


This poem has been commended for the National Poetry Competition and previously published in the Scottish magazine Chapman.




  1. Wow, but that’s good!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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