Heather Taylor Johnson

Heather Taylor Johnson moved from America to Adelaide in 1999. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide, is a poetry editor for Wet Ink magazine, and the author of the poetry collection Exit Wounds. She reviews poetry and other artforms for various publications. She has a husband, three children under six and a feisty pup, and finds the bathtub a welcome office space.  



Shovelling Snow
There is subtlety in a morning snow
silent from the picture window and I’m curled cat-like
on my favourite couch, hot chocolate in my favourite mug,
warming my two morning hands, contemplating objects hidden
covered and coated with winter;
that lump that grew beneath her not yet forty skin.
Last night the phone call.
I spend the day in sweater and sweats and knitted socks
typing away at what I don’t know (death buried beneath the snow?)
because I want insight and closure
and most of the time I sit, staring at the foreign snow,
waiting to grow numb.
At three o’clock my computer rests,
a second cup of chocolate waits
while the hanging sun, timid, waits
to drop below the layered roofs
and the stewing of moose sausage waits,
the uncorking of the South Australian cab sav too
-because we wish to toast her in her own native flavour
and Canadian red wine lacks the complexity we are after.
If only I could find my couch and sit in the silence
of the late afternoon snow
but the driveway’s impatient now, covered and coated
with piles and hours of fresh white subtlety. 
Christ but there is no subtlety in shovelling snow
and it does not dare to wait. 
Tomorrow they will bury her in the dry, cracked
summer-drought soil, her not-yet forty years,
and as they comfort one another in their daylight despair
this house will be quiet with sleep,
not conscious of how we long for the sun.
The midnight will bring more snow and it will cover
my driveway once more, it will cover the tracks of our daily lives,
it will cover the warmth of the deep underground.




I suggest something different from longing,

entirely separate from belonging.

I propose spaces.

Not holes or gaps

implying absence or worse


but spaces as places

between what we know.


The big sky

my mother’s face

pizza sauce served thickly.

‘Awesome’ ‘cookie’ ‘garbage can’

my brother’s crooked eye.

SUVs and mountain streams

a bluebird’s song a hummingbird’s wing, tall glasses of 2% milk

my father’s towering body.



combustion heaters

saying ‘partner’ rather than ‘husband’

and sometimes stopping

to remember

he has an accent.

Port dolphins

gumtree sky

the footy the ocean

ubiquitous meat pies.


The space I am suggesting

between here and there

is not so big—


it’s enormous.


before noon
brick backyard
water bottle and phone:
or ‘my birthday poem’

The international dateline confuses calendars and friends

and relatives (who I take less lightly),

so yes, they all have an excuse.

Here’s to calling card expirations

and the baby’s almost due

and I didn’t get home until late last night,

and here’s to my forever forgiving simply just forgot

but you must know this:

that on this particularly sentimental day,

that here so far from the reaching Blue Ridge

I am waiting   telephone on table

brick backyard. 


This day is hot

like the summer tried to sneak away,

got caught red sweaty-handed

and spilled all over my body,

and on this day I wish the scent

of the ocean three kilometres away,

for my son to sleep a full two hours,

to tan myself bare  

thinly layered sunscreened skin

wisteria my thick fortress.


Sweet family and those pictures of party hats

children with vague names

brown and green corduroy clothes

of the mid 70s we all seemed to wear,

remember this day

colour me into your latest photo

and stick it on the fridge.


Undomesticated university girls,

the river dudes with holey jeans,

my three-year tangle mistake

who shared my tiny bed,

our drinks were always raised to the camera’s lens,

so raise your drinks now, beyond your horizon;

it’s midnight your time 

and I’m before noon   water bottle ready.


I wish for the dj playing soul

to keep on spinning til the day is done

as I wish for accents like my own

because nothing speaks more of home

than an emphasized r at the end of my name,

the telephone and a strong memory

of an endlessly wooded grass backyard

and the reaching Blue Ridge in the distance.