Heather Taylor Johnson

Heather Taylor Johnson moved from America to Australia in 1999. She is a poetry editor for Wet Ink magazine and a reviewer of poetry and fiction for various literary publications in Australia and America. Her first book of poetry, Exit Wounds, was published in 2007. She has acted as co-editor, judge and Australia Poetry’s Café Poet in residence. She also writes fiction, for which she has been longlisted for the Australian / Vogel award and granted a mentorship and a HarperCollins residency at the Varuna Writers’ House. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide and teaches Creative Writing at Flinders University. She lives near the Port in Adelaide with her partner Dash, her three young children – Guthrow, Sunny and Matilda – and their dog Tom.



You can’t see the sky shaking
but what else can force a tree to dance?
Not the stoic ground with its packed-in dirt.
Not the scurrying ants.

A lot can happen
and does:
my oldest and his fifth tooth
Australia’s first female
prime minister
small illnesses
bursting hearts
all the possibilities
of every minor dream
overseas correspondence.
I left it all to sit with things
that didn’t move –
appliances, concrete, a blank television screen.

I know I burn
need the wind to flame
support / your hands
your voice’s breath
and all the rest, all
of it, of you.

It’s autumn and I feel it.
Leaves topple from wild wind gusts.
Clouds run marathons.

Shake, my sky
I, your tree.



Who can measure the movement of a heart?
There you were on a mountaintop, breathless, cloudless
wondering at the form of the man in front of you

amazed your breast had not been cut off
and that maybe he will touch it
later, after wine.

At 14,000 ft the air is thinner, you seem to laugh more
your heart keeps tune with the untameable wind.
That was so long ago. Your hair still growing out.

One thing the womb wants is a baby.
The mind may disagree – and the heart
but empty wants to overflow

and so you stand on the mountaintop again
pregnancy raining on you from the sky
soaking through from the wet wet earth –

is this where the heart goes when it refuses to die?
You wonder if it beats too loudly
if he can hear it beating at all.

I wish I could say this shouldn’t concern you
that you and the ridges must have your way
and the heart will echo its joy.

That he’ll hear it when he needs to.
Maybe when he’s through with the mountain;
maybe when he finds his way home.

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