Amanda Johnston

Question 1

There’s a Glaswegian guy outside with me as I call
……….the store and ask them to let me in. He wants
……….a coffee, he’s celebrating because his team
………………..won and I spend the morning
……….wondering what he means when he says ‘team.’
Maybe he’s talking about some drinking game last night.

…………………………And my manager whispers ‘are people shopping already?’

Or maybe he has been pushing hard for 2017, cheering
……….it to finally usurp 2016 and showcase dominance
……….for three hundred odd days. Or maybe he just
………………..talking sports. Probably sports.
……….I want to meet everyone, get their stories.
Don’t you, Amanda?

…………………………And my manager whispers ‘I haven’t set up the coffee yet.’

He comes back in an hour later to get his Americano
……….and pays with money he has earnt busking.
……….I ask about his team, and he gives a small
………………..cheer and attempts to rouse the
……….whole café into supporting Celtic’s victory
over Rangers. It’s a pretty fun, kinda great moment.

…………………………And my manager whispers ‘Dave is here.’

Dave walks in with all the nonchalance of a man
……….who doesn’t look malnourished, and unloved.
……….The Glaswegian guy walks out and Dave wants
………………..a mug of tea. He mumbles
……….and dribbles on the floor, too much saliva
for his beard to hold. He looks like he needs some help.

…………………………And my manager whispers ‘Dave’s a convicted paedophile.’

– Aaron Kent

Answer 1

……….“Choice. The problem is choice.” – Neo, The Matrix

An architect stands over your life measuring
the width and scale of your lungs, the minimum
amount of oxygen needed to toil through
the coming day’s expectations.

You count the ways you could have swerved, left
the surface of existence, and plummeted below
icy water on your way to the passing of time:
a desk, a line, a pre-packaged opportunity.

The man looking down from heaven is always a man
even when you know better. He guides you back, right
with subtle there, there winds that gently bend you
to kiss his feet at the altar of divine sacrifice.

Ahead of you waits the mountain you were told
not to climb. Too little oxygen up there. Too cold.
You grip the wheel, knuckles frozen, and press the gas
as clouds drift in and out of your mouth.

– Amanda Johnston

Question 2

He was back in the early hours of Sunday morning / with a new scar and another reason to hate the world / told me he had HIV / is Britain’s longest survivor / had to leave Glasgow / and Edinburgh / and Gloucester / and London / all with a red ribbon and the inevitable heat death / of the social universe he had been trying to construct.

He had a way with words / made me reveal my secrets by the sugar stand of a coffee shop / have you ever meet someone like this Amanda? Someone who burns the strands / on the candle and makes you hold the melted wax closer to your soul than you ever wanted?

I told him about my scar / the one I have tried desperately to coat in insomnia / and group therapy / and the scars of greater people / the reason I can’t look in the mirror and not see my father / or why I break when I am alone with other men.

– Aaron Kent

Answer 2

I keep faith in tangible things: the known
weight of bagged rice, ounces of milk,
the height of children recorded on doorframes,
my hand balancing time with lead.

Before the land was plotted, scored into square
footage, before rings were sized and exchanged,
we needed to see what was within: the microscopic
language of platelets, of bodies fused together.

What armies sit dormant? What pathogens
did we welcome in our slow and steady march
of coming? What bloomed in silence before
the bubbling of skin feverish with sweat?

I’d like to think I know my body and the bodies
of others multiplied across my back better
than their genetic sequence. We kiss and you kiss
them all again, again, welcoming home what is.

– Amanda Johnston

Question 3

I spent too long today
trying to convince a student to write
about drug deals
and not bank robberies –
and find a comedic twist ending.
Because the whole screenwriting class
only find interest in three things:
drugs,
guns,
suicidal love stories

…and I want to tell them there is more to all of this than that. There are fragments of lives lived under microscopic moments of hope, and loves found in the sweetest of arc, tearing dreams from the skulls of unicorns. But how do I convince them of glory when they’ve seen the wrong men take power, countries choose to self-destruct?

– Aaron Kent

Answer 3

I offer this small space I hold in the world.
I know my body
is a border to be crossed.

I pray the crossing be welcomed with consent.
I open my chest,
shrikes flutter about

the dying tips of limbs, fingers numb from digging
tunnels out, a way in,
without light.

I reach into the darkness to what I think is the end
and feel another’s hand pull me
deeper into flight.

– Amanda Johnston

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