Fred Johnston

Fred Johnston (born 1951) is an Irish poet, novelist, literary critic and musician. He is the founder and current director of the Western Writers’ Centre in Galway. He co-founded the Irish Writers’ Co-operative in 1974, and founded Galway’s annual Cuirt International Festival of Literature in 1986.



: for Joaquin Roncero del Pino :

Here a drowsy burr of tyres

a demolishing sudden blast of fat buses pushing past

like fast-food bullies in a queue


here too the gasping sun pushed down

under a black pillow of cloud

like an irritating relative smothered in her bed –


it could be that we are not moving

but that the roadway slips beneath instead

a rolling and unrolled carpet


ground out by gears many earths deep

the turning of the world also, the unheard

engine at the core; it could be we have not travelled –


this is not taught in schools, the possibility

of infinite deceit,  physics of the perpetual lie:

and the calculus of the lie in motion is immeasurable


a number without numbers; even as the bridges

and walkways tick over us,

a clock’s sound, the sound of a clock’s hands in mechanical motion.




To My Mind

Alice always, to my mind, is at a table

Mapped with oysters, red wine and salad

Talking when the others won’t or can’t

A sound like water from a tap on a warm day

In childhood

And behind us, waiters and a lake.



It’s a large room, the ceiling low and dark

We’ve talked past the entrées

Who introduced who to whom is irrelevant

We are locked in a rare thing of conversing

Like old friends

Someone raises a glass, we stand



Alice rises, curving like a wand

In the room’s stiffened air

There is a coming and going of dishes,

Steamy slices of duck, beef

Roast potatoes –

And a rude door bangs far away.



© 2018 Fred Johnston