by Tiegan Johnston

The machine is quieter

than the wings of summer wasps,

humming as they pester us.

All these years of contemplation

just for this cat scratch

of itching irritation.

As he inks lines and spheres into my skin

I think of my grandparents,

our excitement come late summer

when the berries started to ripen,

and how, briefly, we believed

in nothing, nothing

but the product of their sweet pulp.

At the end it is bright red and glistening,

the dark lines raised and hyperbolic

against the milk of my skin.

I scramble to show my grandmother:

Lovely, she says, but why blackberries?


Beach Bodies are for Love Island, Bog Bodies are Forever

After Tara Flynn

by Tiegan Johnston

I lay waiting

in the sweating muck

metres beneath the moss and sky and noise –

not even 5G can reach me here.

My body is beginning to change:

in the turf my skin dries and clings,

each hair on my useless

head will rust to straw,

untainted by silver in its brown preserve.

The fat dissolves from my hips

leaving me

the perfect zero.

Here my face

is a permanent smile

that no longer worries

about the appearance

of fine lines.

Even the furrows of my brain

smooth as I forget

to worry

about the weight

of this body

compared to the weight

of another body.

In the summer

you will marvel

at the curve of your hip,

the jutting of a bone,

the caving belly

that holds less than mine,

while I am digested

slow as stone.

My bletting body

succumbs to the pressure

of peat, no more

to that of the world.

Here beauty can rest

in the sprouting

of the bog-berry,


the low-hanging fruit

of love islands

and housewives

from places I can never go.

Here the tendrils

of convention

need not reach me

as I rest and rot,

for two-thousand years

until some man unpins

the muck from me

and spills soliloquies

on the beads of my nipples

and makes a crock

of my pubic bone.

Then, I will rise, reluctant,

into a new world

of questions,

that my body

unwillingly answers.

Tiegan Johnston (she/her) is currently studying for her MA in Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast. Beginning the course as a critic, she has quickly transitioned to writing her own poetry that has a focus on the body, gender, fruit, memory, trauma and the oddities of human interaction.

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