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In her third collection of poetry, Heather Taylor Johnson celebrates the liminal spaces between two cultures – the neither here nor there, the neither in nor out. It is indeed a world where ‘Home is a relative term’.

Thirsting for Lemonade is an affirmation of the migrant’s acceptance of never-quite-belonging, and still it is her attempt to forge new paths in foreign, and remembered, territory, where past is always present.

These poems recall the many things which get us home – photographs, a common cereal, a record album, a fooseball table. This latest collection is a celebration of ‘the things that are especially good / because they cannot last.’






Heather Taylor Johnson

Heather Taylor Johnson is the author of two books of poetry: Exit Wounds (2007) and Letters to my Lover from a Small Mountain Town (2012). She was a poetry editor for Wet Ink magazine from 2005-2012 and is currently the poetry editor for Transnational Literature.

She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide and tutors in Creative Writing at Flinders University. She is an ex-pat hailing from all over the US, now ecstatically relocated near the Port in Adelaide. She lives with her partner Dash, their three young children – Guthrow, Sunny and Matilda – and their spunky dog Tom.

Her first novel, Pursuing Love and Death, will be published by HarperCollins in 2013.




ISBN 9781922120359 (PB, 78pp)
140mm x 216mm

AU$25 US$18 NZ$27 £12 €14
ISBN 9781922120366 (eBk) AU$12 US$9 NZ$14 £6 €7

From the opening poem’s narrative of mortality and impermanence to the ruminations on travel and transience in the final piece, the poems in Thirsting For Lemonade provide an engaging perspective on life across and in between nations, continents and social landscapes. Family, memory, cultural mores and diasporic musings form the fascinating content of these poems, but it is their speaker’s levity, insight and generosity of spirit that makes them a pleasure to read. I recommend this book to all readers who have felt, as Taylor Jonson has, that ‘no earth has ever been theirs to claim.’

– Ali Alizadeh, poet, novelist, critic and playwright

Like all good exiles, Taylor Johnson lives in two worlds and can’t let go of either one. That’s damn good news for her readers of her poetry, who find in that tension, that divided self, that straddling of two continents a powerful voice of reflection and desire, of desperate holding on—to the past, to the moment, to what is at times a fragile identity, both anchored and unmoored by something as mundane, and as miraculous, as a box of Cheerios from America.

– Steve Watkins, author of What Comes After and Down Sand Mountain, winner of the 2009 Golden Kite Award for Fiction

Heather Taylor Johnson writes about the things that matter and some things that didn’t seem to matter before. Her poems are digressive, surprising, vital, and will find readers beyond poetry’s forts and ghettos.

– Aiden Coleman



Heather's website




Familiar yet
the fabric of this couch
still un-stretched,
no smudges or stick
on the white shag carpet
where my toes warm themselves
and fiddle.
                Home is a relative term.

This family meeting
festive, somber
we joke as brother and sister do
while Mom lays trays of dip
and Dad spreads out
the papers.

The last time we met for
‘the discussion of the wills’
I was too young to drive

though I had a say in euthanasia.
Now I am grown, I’ve flown faster
than the sun and turned back time
to be here, where
the dishes are the same
but I’m unsure
in which cupboard they reside.
                Residence is impermanence.

Dad with his lips like mine
asks if there is anything we want to claim
so nothing becomes messy.
I’m stuck on claim and mess.
Mom is busy, asking about jewelry,
wouldn’t I want

I’m thinking it’s the things
that are meant to sum them up.

My brother and I are still, save for my toes
in the carpet and his allergies waiting
for the rain.

Everything Rolling Stones to my dad
because this is how we’ve related
thought the other really cool
sang words aloud on family road trips
and years later over tequila.
My father gushes quietly,
as is his way
with pride.

Thunder rumbles in my stomach and briefly
we look into each other’s eyes
                mother daughter
                father son
                mother son
                brother sister
                daughter father
                husband wife.

The breeze through the lanai has become wind
and swelled to a howl, my skin pimpling
and I rub my arms, dream of ugg boots
imported into Florida.

Do you want a blanket?

Then as if to counterpoint:
Your piano, ignoring shipping and the trauma
of the riotous waves, a large crate splintering
what would be my lingering pain.

Why would I want the baby grand
when at nine – don’t you remember –
I became so frustrated
with my mom’s teaching
I stopped playing the piano?
What about five – remember the tiny
ballerina behind you all around
as you played straight-backed and wrists
relaxed because I will never forget.

My brother’s fingers touch
waste time.
You ask this now?
He laughs.
We know it is not funny.

Keith Richards and JS Bach
and the shouting rain
on the condo’s roof
keep a heavy beat;
the steady gutter of water
like strings.

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