A poem by Brian Johnstone

The Commonplace
The jar will long retain the fragrance of what it was steeped in when new. Horace

They’re there in every shipwreck,
every trench,
stacked in serried ranks or shattered

by some trauma in the past
that whispers in the ear,
the way the thumb prints round the rim

speak volumes lost
but surely close at hand;
like accident, ill fortune, clumsiness

all waiting round the corner,
hiding in a section under soil
the trowel has failed to pick away, the eye

has overlooked; as with this ship – caught out
upon a reef
low tide exposed so briefly

none had made the shout
in time – that foundered, took in water, sank
to lay upon these silted rocks

some planks, a larder, corked and sealed,
the commonplace,
the musk of honey, reek of resin, wine.
(from The Book of Belongings, Arc Publications, 2009)
Video of Brian Johnstone reading the poem with translation into Spanish by Victor Rodriguez Nunez & Katherine Hedeen.
Brian Johnstone is a Scottish poet whose work has appeared throughout Scotland and in the UK, America and various European countries. He has published four collections to date, his latest being The Book of Belongings (Arc, 2009). His poems have been translated into more than 10 different languages. In 2009 Terra Incognita, a small collection of his poems in Italian translation, was published by L’Officina (Vicenza).