Iain N.R. Johnston Stories

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The remorse of Doctor Rudolph Rheinhardt


A Will Condon Hobo Tale

by Iain N.R. Johnston


I remember it clearly that fall of nineteen thirty four. The visual profusion of many hued dessicated leaves filled the porches and front yards. The bare trees had caste of their fading summer garb. The hint of frost was carried in the north wind. Fall in Pennsylvania; a solemn time of year.


                  THE NIGHT HAG



On this cold and bleak October night

over bog, moorland and windswept fen.

I hear the Night Hag's wailing cry,

from a world that is far, far beyond my ken.


Carried forth by autumn's mournful wind,

comes that ghastly, infernal scream.

Disturbs my deep, sound sleep,

invades and echoes through my dream.


In haste trembling hands latch and bar the door,

shaking lips form and mumble a prayer.

A shadow flits across the orb of moon,

evil intent lingers upon the night air.


On what lonely cottage will it alight?

In what darkened window will it peer?

Who is called by that dismal spectral wail?

Crouched by hearth, waiting, sunk in fear.


"What soul doth thou seek?" I call into the gale,

then answers with hideous shriek the night borne crone.

Whose phantom shape in tattered shroud wings the storm,

"The soul I seek this night, is thine own!"




On the breeze of this midsummer eve strange notes are borne

From the Faerie greenwood by the shadowed mystic lake.

Near Merlin's blue pool and standing field of corn,

By the old sacred Druid's oak and tall magical rowan.

Harken! Is that the distant sound of a hunter's horn?


For tis the night of the great hunt abroad,

When antlered Herne purses his inhuman lips and calls

Upon his deathless cohort, that spectral horde,

That call that echoes through ancient shrouded woods

O'er hill, vale, brook and mistbound ford.


On to heathered heath where smoulders yet ashes of balefire,

Down to the wooden bridge that spans Clodagh's dark water

Far by the hoary crumbling mill that borders Grymlann mire,

Where lies forbidden Elvish mound and craggy Borland Tor

Comes the demon howl of things begotten by an unknown sire


To the sound of his horn that shall haunt me unto the day I die,

Come coal black steeds with baying pack of houinds.

Thud of pounding fiery hoof and eerie scream and cry,

Crimson eyed riders with taugt bow and flaming spear.

The great hunt of Herne, The horned  One thunders on by.

Iain Johnston, 2008

Wandering Free

I left for France in seventeen,

A footslogger in the great War.

Furthest from the farm I'd ever been,

A Kid in Khaki,

                   Now I wonder what for.

I came back from Europe in nineteen,

A man, a soldier, war torn and weary

Returning to Land not scarred but quiet and green,

To the Great depression,

                                  To unemployment, sad and dreary.

I took the roads of America, far and wide,

With bindle on my back and old campaign hat,

From Montana to Mexico these dusty roads knew my stride

Working, a jack of all trades,

                                  Doing this and that.

A hobo was I, a wandering spirit in those days,

Many adventures I had, many friends I did meet,

Railroad box cars, junk yards, endless highways,

Summer sun, Autumn wind,

                                 Winter snow and sleet.

When I go at last from this worldly scene,

To that great hobo paradise in the sky.

To the Saviour I'll say, 'Brother, a wanderer on  Earth I've been,

He will smile and reply,

                                Brother, so on Earth, was I' 


I had passed through Clayton Forks once before. Four years previous to be exact. It had been high summer then. White picket fences, trim lawns. Clayton Forks, population five thousand. The typical, American town where in warm weather kids splashed in the cold water of fire-hydrants and old hound dogs lazed in the heat. A wide main street, a selection of small enterprises of various descriptions clustered around the usual general and hardware store.


Nothing ever seemed to occur there; nothing untoward so far. Just a small backwater. A piece of flotsam cast up by the ocean of time...



A Tomb In Tuscany

In the smoky dusk of twilight I did walk alone,

Perchance, to come upon that ancient quiet place of rest,

A crumbling silent sepulchre of age worn stone,

Above the entrance, a long, forgotten and faded nobles crest.


Memory stirred within me of a life lived long since,

When Etruria was great among the nations of the earth,

Then I loved the maid, Lartia, and I a prince,

And she the keeper of my wealth, houshold and hearth.


Yes! We lived and loved within those spacious marble halls,

Till one eve I fell into a dreamless, timeless sleep.

To awaken in a future age to Etrurias ruinous walls,

Now for my long lost love I can only weep.


So, before this tomb where lies fair Lartia, my love,

That peerless damsel of beauty and flowing raven hair.

I beat the ground, curse gods below and above,

Those heartless deities we worshipped that didn't really care.


My eyes are dimmed, awash with endless tears,

The maiden, Lartia, to bone to dust has long gone.

Her laughter is but an echo, now fading in my ears,

My grief, within me, sings, a sad eternal song. 


From a thought

Then a substance

Then awarness

Then seed

Then growth

Small then large

Forms from chaos

Ever changing

Ever multiplying

An eternal process

Stars, Nebulae

Cartwheels spinning

Countless suns blazing

A myraid planets circling

Inhabitants like grains of sand

An immense ocean of space

Lapping at shores of strang worlds

Galaxies rolling, ever expanding

Ever outward

Life springing from star to star

Across the immensity of infinite universe

On swarming globes astrometers gaze skywards

And wonder

Then from mans thoughts

Come creation


The Place of the Sacred Yew

A poem to the Oldest tree in Scotland

Stood I here for nine thousand years,

Though my heart has died and my limbs grow weak.

Trunk scarred by Druid's sickle and Neolithic spears.

Outliving my kindred oak, ash and teak.

I was young after the glaciers melt,

Saw new races pass below my shade,

Pict. Milesian, Danaan and Celt,

At my roots Saint Ninian knelt and prayed.

'Neath my greenery the little people did peep,

The woodland echoed to their fairysong.

Ever gone now they into an eternal sleep,

For the sond of Elvin pipes I listen and long.

I have heard the rhythm of the Gaelic plough,

Then a young man to the Holy Land sailed,

Once who played amongst my leafy bough,

And the Son of God to a cross was nailed.

With blare of trumpets the legions came,

Helmets and standards shone in the sun.

Only dimly do I remember Rome's fame,

For still I exist and their story is done.

Dwell I at the entrance of the glen of lugh,

Above the blue waters of the great Loch Tay.

Beneath a majestic sky of azure hue,

Where golden eagle and plumed hawk hold sway.

Long may I stand, avenerable yew.

Through solstice sun and winter storm that rages.

Symbol of Caledonia, lionhearted and true,

Stout guardian from the dawn of ages.

The Colloseum Cats

To H.P, Lovecraft

Moonlight in ethereal shafts awakens them from deepest, dreamless slumber

shadows,sinous, silent, arise from hidden places in ancient stone.

a restless hide comes to nighted ways, ceaseless without number,

to settle on mouldering sepulchre, on scattered and crumbling bone.


As shades of dark steal over that antique stony heap

yellow orbed eyes flicker open, strecting and scraping of claws.

Around doorway, atop wall, through windo they stealthily creep,

black shapes rush through the murk or softly whispering paws.


In sleep they rest by day waiting for the night,

their turn to wander the streets of decaying arcane Rome.

To marvel by starlight on that city's forgotten night,

to run and scamper over ruined forum, tower and dome.


They live, where in long gone primordial time champions fought,

Then crowds cheered the victors and blood stained the sand.

over now those days of empire, battle, war and plot,

four footed they walk where bravely stood that gladiatorial band.


Where haughty general in chariot rode with Legions Marching proud,

and once arrayed in purple emperors in pompious glory sat.

In vias where fair damsel walked with shy head bowed,

now rules the humble feline, and furred King, The Collosseum Cat!   


Footprints in the Snow

Was upon a dark, bleak ove you came,

When while the snow lay upon the ground.

Outside in the black of night you called my name,

My spirit leaped at the joyful sound.

I saw you standing beneath the street lamp glow,

amid the cold fog and icy frost.

Innocent then, I did not know,

The heartbreak the love I felt would cost.

Through spring, summer and autumn together we strolled,

smiled, laughed, not a care had we then,

Never did I think your love would turn cold,

as cold as the wind off the heathland fen.

Winter come chilling Peter borough's grimy heart,

sleet, snow and the cold northern gale.

Never knowing then that we would part,

that the love we shared would fail.

One last time we met and kissed,

endless tears could not heal the blow.

You vanished forever into the January mist

Whirling white flakes hid your footprints in the snow.

The Song of Brodir the Oarsman

For many a voyage over many a year,

have I manned the gret stern oar.

Through storm, tempest and maelstrom,

and if Odin wills I'll sail many a season more.

When sun rises upon fjord and icy grag,  

the dragon prowed longships set sail.

To go a Viking on bright blue waves,

to cross swords with Saxon, Umbrain and Gael.

They say the Norns weave to seal our fate,

mystic sisters three that work the tapestry of life.

Nimble fingers thread the weird of man,

his loves, his travails, wars and strife.


At lives end Bifrost's rainbow bridge I'll cross,

there Baldur stands to guard Valhalla's halls.

Where one eyed Odin sits hand on jewelled sword hilt,

and Thor's mighty hammer whetted anvil falls.

If I should fall in battle blade in hand,

feather winged Valkyries shall bear my body up.

Then I'll wasail with heroes gone before,

the mead of Gods I'll quaff from a silver cup.

Glad to be an oarsman, been so man and boy,

not Nordic Jarl' Mercian King, or Celtic Thane.

Only to live as brodir Orgiersson,

strong in arm, in courage, a simple Dane.


I saw you first upon the branch of a tree,

First of many wonders I did see.

Astounding my innocent childish eye.

I could not contrive, to pass you by.

I was lonely I needed a friend,

A companion a sad young heart to mend.

I took you home in a matchbox that day,

You travelled with me, courtesy of Bryant and May.

A jam jar became your domocile,

Ii forgot my loneliness, began to smile.

I fed you on leaves of various kind,

On anything growing and green, that I could find. 

I talked to you of many things,

of days at school and the knowledge it brings.

You could not answer, though I think you understood,

My many legged friend, from leafy Drumchapel wood.

Then came the time when you had to leave/

I was happy at you change, did not grieve.

Instead, I marvelled at such an amazing thing,

From emerald caterpillar, to colour butterfly on the wing.

Soaring Happilly away a new universe to view,

That, chidhood friend was the last I saw of you.

I did not know our friendship would be so brief

When I plucked you carefully, from that large green leaf.


Enshrouded in the coils of sleep,

Whirling down a tideless stream

I see the surging vasty deep,

Bound forever by a seabourne dream.


I hear the rhythmic sound of oars,

The splash of wet salt spray.

The glimpse of mist bound shores,

The sound of waves at break of day

I smell the mystic tang of sea,

Beneath my feet a stout keel.

For the sky is blue and ocean is free,

Home to dolphin and silver seal.

To voyage with a roguish crew,

With a breeze blown sail aloft.

A dream dreampt of by but few,

Not for me lonely glen or croft.

To leap ashore on virgin sand,

Some new untrodden soil

While the crew, that happy band,

Ship oars and rest from toil.

Exploring cities in a foriegn clime,

Moss covered steps of ancient stone.

Worn by the sandle feet of time,

To stand in those silent streets alone.

To Thule and far Hyperborea I would go,

Where lofty ice clasped mountains soar.

Eternally cloaked in fog and snow,

Beyond the maelstrom and krakens roar.

Geen isled Atlantis and Antillian strands,

Finned sea maidens sing on a golden beach.

In those fair and fortunate lands,

That only the drembound sailor can reach.

I sleep in the warm embrace of Circe,

Far from any mortal care.

My earh bound soul at last set free,

Lulled by her charms, so sweet, so fair.

I listen to the sirens compelling song,

The white wing gulls cry.

Far from shore where cyclops throng,

I'm lured by the call of the lorei.

Then I awake to life's dreary round,

The dream has fled, the vision fades.

I hear bird call, traffic sound,

I am left with memories, but, passing shades.




Force the straits,nthe planes were assigned.
Approaches fortified. batterieswaiting, waters heavy mined
Our objectives, hard won, would be in our reach.
An Anzac cove and old 'z'beach.




Jacko came ashore through wave and surf crimson red.
Beside his cobbers, Bluey, digger, Jolly swagman Ned
Heat, flies, hunger, thirst, trenches were made.
endless days,barrage, patrol, snipper, grenade.




The corporal's rough, predictable, bushland jokes.
The sunburnt, determined faces of the blokes.
The old sergeant' fatherly encouraging word.
Suddenly shrilled, the cry of distant seabird.




A tin of bully the last tucker you ate,
A cigarette, warm char, a chat with a male.
The rattle of rifle bolts well greased.
Dull thud of guns on the warm ocean breeze.


Through the rising mist and morning murk.
Can be seen the trenches and wire of Johnny Turk.
The officers shout, the whisttles blow.
Up the ladder with a cheer, and over we go!


Sound of machine gun, rifle fire and shell.
The discordant sympathy of man made hell.
Down fall that good old outback crew.
Goodby digger!  Farewell Boomer! So long Blue!


Across bomb cratered, corpse strew, no-man's land.
Into the enemy entrenchments, fighting hand to hand
Sharpened spade, club, rifle butt, bayonet knife,
Killing those who should be brothers in bloody strife.


No more will smilling Bluey stroll down a Sydney Street.
No more will Stockman Digger ride horse swift and fleet.
Like Jacko they lie silent in their tomb.
Though in Heaven for heroes, God will always find room.


So, tell me of the Anzaes those gallant few,
of Sari Bair Ridge, the Wellington Battalion too,
and the annalolian soldier, the brave of the brave.
They all sleep side by side in a Dardanelles grave.


For it was their battle neither side won.
The order came to retire before the rising of the sun.
Slowly the battered fleet and bloodied soldiers sailed away.
Proudly remembered, with raised flag, on Anzac Day.


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