poems JJS


The grizzled old man looked at me

with the morning sun glistening on bristled chin.

His eyes sunken, not hooded like crows

but sprawled-over by lank eyebrows; and his nose!

Thin commas red-lining the beak and you see

the grey from his nostrils peek.

There’s a finite crease in each lobe of each ear

and the duct in his eye predicted a tear, or sleep.

The fine hair cast thin and lopped to one side

hiding the patch where the thatch had died.

Back to his jaw where the line has sagged

and the lips drawn in.

The rhythm is missing, it’s not me nor him.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m seeing his twin.




The hawthorn, once budded and blossom-smothered

So smooth and supple that she waved to and caressed the breeze

Twisting with light to loose her petals and covered

To spell the ground white with flattering ease.

As branches arched, grew wide and reached for sun,

Beneath its shade in dappled light grew nature’s young

To play and grow and shelter as young shoots

In the founding nest among the hawthorn roots.

But time, the tides of man, an unknown thing in hawthorn’s course

Seeks recompense for seasons’ gifts

And bends and wreaks with gales that force

The gnarled and ancient roots to lift

And skin the branches clean of bud and leaf

To leave a memory and make a willow weep.


Poem….                                                                          28.march17

Recollection slips into gear when sitting in my quiet place

And the setting sun brings into view a distant face

That has never aged with signs of wear.

This time it’s red-eyed Henry who heads the line

With his solemn look.  Always hid behind

BIg-foot McCluskey but now he has the shilling

His penitent father gives for sweets

and he’s always willing

To share his treats with those who fold him in.

So there he is, is Big-foot, as heavy as is tall.

With Shiny-face and cheerful smile for one and all;

Unless you mock his mother, striving hard to keep together

A house of children by working the only way she could.

And then beware, big-foot.


I sip my thermos’ tea and hough quietly as childhood ghosts

Drift across the rows of red and white-stringed beans;

Canopies of leaves that point and flutter and boast of ripened seeds

That twist and burst and fall on fallow soil, on forgotten scenes.

Big Mary, Little Jane.  Oddly sisters a year apart

Who always dangled off each other’s arms as if alarmed to part,

Except when chased by Quickey-Tom and then would dash across the lane

To squeal in unison on opposing sides and feign

Surprise or anger amid delight.

And Mickey, Smiff and then there’s Jim.

What became of him, I wonder absently, sipping tea, still steaming

Into rheumy eyes.

He had big plans. Dressed like a mannequin for any occasion.

Always scheming, planning, looking for a reason

Not to be him.


Time, they say, is a great healer.

Glasses, they say are always rose-tinted.

Beds, they say, are of your own making.

But I wonder, in my quiet place,

Of the stories they would make of me;

Of my face that never ages,

Of my eyes, one, two, three.


for Jean, Poet.                     JJS.    9jan.2017


A gossamer.

One hundred threads

of finest silken line.

A spiders web of steel

in summer through winter’s grip

and yet a sip of wine

that weds your world to mine.



Three Poems               J Johnson Smith


A Poor Poet’s Christmas


A Poor Poet’s Christmas         (with apologies to Clare and Bloomfield)


We sit around the fireside and call out merry oaths

Until there come the players in, plucking music from their throats.

With fiddles, horns and pipes they join in olden song

Of maids and lords and stable-lads, of all their rights and wrongs

Which to this day warn youth and child that behind each golden door

May lie a heart as black or red as beats inside the poor’.


The sack and beer are passed around and tatties and pudding too

Until our voices burst the door and raucous is the night.

‘Til cows and chucks bemoan the light that brakes their stalls

And e’en the moon forestalls the dawn to keep the sight

Of merry players and happy fools

Take rest from blistering tools

On this our Christmas night.




also tagged as  seasons

Sunny Days

Sunny Days                                                JJS.    8.aug2016


Every morning this summer, surprisingly

sunny and hot

for several weeks

Except for that twentyfour hours of

fine drizzle

and that final night-time burst of

torrential rain.


Every morning in that surprise of heat

inclined to frizzle

the finest leaves of fuchsia or

raspberry cane

I would tap my foot on a paving slab by

A waterbutt

then pause to bend a hand to a watering can.


A frog slid out

from under

the lip and sat on a brick an inch away

and refused to look at me.


I bent a little lower, as much as I could,

to study the smooth green skin with its fuzzed

brown spots

while it never moved or blinked or

even twitched.


Every morning frog played sleeping lions, refusing to see,


ignoring me

as I studied the sleek leg and long blobbed toes.

Frog rested



ignoring my existence while the sun shimmered over its back

and green skinned bellows.


Until I move a boot an inch, so I can reach the can.

Frog jumps

flat foot and splayed upon the chicken wire,

shrunken body, legs akimbo in dissection mode,


We both hesitate again,

frog in the shade

while the sun still sweats on my neck.


Frogs don’t only sit or jump,

they manoeuvre

to slip front legs then head through the circle,

a too small circle,

then contract the bellows, the chest and ooze into

and through the wire noose

and flick

those wicket-keepers legs without a thought

to land like a tumbler and with a kick retreat

to ground-elder leaves and disappear.


The frog never looks at me face to face.

Why should it?

We play our little game, have no need to kiss,

both have chores to live.

I hope tomorrow will be the same.

frog lounge 2



Iris                                                      15.May2016            jJS


A glimpse of a world set in clear Amber for a millisecond,

hidden as a reflection that sits perilously on the opalescent lip.

Twin, triple, quadruple fine spines of delicate pink lines

with minute dots of orange.


So the delicate, tiger-striped burr alights and cools its proboscis.

A black head, black eyed, black tongued beast foraging

and nonchalantly robbing the nectar sweet with never a thought to assist

but flit to another pink edged well and dip.


Each head nodding and tempting amid the stems and stalks of reed-head grass

with yawning arms of petals that shimmer.

Purple rims of welcoming maws surrounding innocent white and a blatant gash

of orange.

That host rippling as the waterside ripples and the insects

hum about their business.  Dragonflies hover and dart

as fast as their life will last from the shallows to the wide open glass of the lake

to disappear as mysteriously as morning mist.


The iris-faces, like a crowd watching over the theatre of the lake,

bated breath,Irises

open mouthed,

turning with the spotlight sun,

too amazed

to notice what the bumbles take.

‘Twas the Morn before Christmas

”Twas the morn before Christmas
and the women were womanning the tills
at the supermarket on the chilly edge of town.

All round the store were festive sales and tinselled aisles
and trolleys that glittered and groaned
as the couples strolled in last minute chance
to garner a Christmas home.

Many a man was there that time, list in hand,
alone, pushing a trolley in that strange land
where prizes lay hidden midst confusing colours
and subtle variety which his manuscript failed to match.
Yet he knew.  His instinct unerringly helped him grasp
the not-quite batch of biscuit or the better value bottle, the bigger size
one that didn’t quite fit the cupboard it was destined for.
And yet the mystery of getting it right spurred them on.
Item tick
Item tick
Item tick.
Between each gap the trolley rushed and shaved a second here,
a corner there,
a short cut from cheese to International Cuisine gave pause enough to
catch a breath and scope the signs to soft drinks and beers.
The search was nearly done, the hunt was on, the race almost won.
At the cross-aisle chicane, ‘the other man was to blame!’
Ignore the bump, smile and nod in unison and on
for the final accolade of cocktail cherries and ditto sticks.
At last, a final twist of fate, the deed was done with help from a fairy with antlers on
ss she beeped and trilled at the winning post.

And out, to the car, the open park where the wind was wild and the air was free.
Yes, dear reader, that trolley was me!


Apologies to…. everyone, ………. and best wishes for Christmas   jJS

Taste of Christmas Future

Taste of Christmas Future                            JJS      18Dec2015
I look out and swallow back the nostalgia
that rises as the shadow of the moon casts
it’s bleakness over the scene.
Clouds swirl like ancient whirlpools with the last glimpse of the sun
reflecting into the depths of the earth below the slow-mo drifts
and I too reflect as the shadows deepen before my eyes.
The scene, as grey as used snow,
a dusty surface shrinking to the narrow horizon
as if foreshortened by my reality.
The egg-shell domes, corrugated, wrinkled with taunting marks,
sit bleakly waiting, inhabiting an almost empty space.

This home, my hearth, no longer valid as a place
and yet from here we wait on mystery, await a face
that somehow sets the spirit free
while the Earth draws us with its sapphire blues of
ever-changing shades.
Those muddled waves of land that crease with mountainside,
the despoiled desert hands that creep into the fertile greenery
of water-lines and estuary but also glint, reflecting the solar miles of viticulture.
And the black cities that burst out at night like shards of radiation,
their streams of light the synapse of a sentient world.

So I wait, we wait, for the promised gifts of life, long delayed.
I am watching for the last star to come our way,
a burning arc to split the clouds,
cleave the grey mass that storms over half our world.

I look down and swallow back the nostalgia
as the curling fingers soften my hand,
softly pull and seek a thumb to suckle on.
The new-baby eyes reassure me, protect me as we wait,
as all around me wait,
for the first colony ship to Mars.

Note to self

Note to self:                                    JJS 31/8/15

I remember the rationing of sweets.
I recall clothes coupons and the last
days of the lamp-lighter in the streets.

will always see the cattle-market
and the off-loading of steers
and chickens in crates,
lines of rabbits cooped in small runs,
barred squares for pigs to squeal and cast.

still hear the steam of the panniers
as they fill their water tanks
or sit panting as their bunkers
clattered with the filling of coal.

feel face pressed, ears squashed
by the railings as we angled our heads
for the first glimpse of the mainline,
be it Manor or Castle or King
blasting under the bridge to scatter
smoke and ashes into its roof
followed by a plume bursting
out of the arch into our faces,
stealing breath as we shout to each other
the name and number of the fine green
Great Western.

Us kids
playing cricket on a makeshift wicket
with the line of poplars as screens,
squared by the fence to the railway line
and the dotted jerseys with bikes between
that covered the other two sides
like morse.

The dad, the umpire, the one-step spin bowler
who taught the rag-tag teams to ask for middle and leg,
aim for square-leg,
field at short-leg and chase to long-leg.
Hours in the summer evenings, it seems to me now,
when a dozen or so yelling boys imagined a Test
and the one-legged hero disdained any rest.

The marching band, slowly trudging in step,
medals pinned to the chest of faded coats.
Ex-servicemen, exercising their right to walk in the gutter
and play their music as reminders of their need to work.
Processing the High Street in the wind and wet
to collect sympathetic coins for past wars.
And now we know, now I know,
this fantastic memory was not all it seemed
for beneath those coats, as time wore on
the suits would gleam.
Who cares, not me, I see a line, a troupe of heroes
and hear the brassy, drifting sounds of jazz.

The kaleidoscope of memory, of shifting childhood:
Pick out the moment, the good, the woes.
Or rather sift and layer, savour and balance them out
to place them carefully and wherever they land tread softly
for they may never return.