Johnny Barnes Gains Critical Mass (Black Hole Approaching!) / chris astwood

His smile O—p__e__n—S so wide that passing mopeds,
coupes, and even the occasional GP vehicles,
slip inside.

The morning mist spins,
shadows come to life and memories stir
up from concrete blocks and casaurinas,
join the dirty vortex

with oversized-pipe two-strokes,
competing to be heard
with two-second bites of radio
and gulps of fumes.

Fumes wreathe Johnny’s I-love-yous.

On delivery, his kisses
should spin and exit,
their invisible marks carried
away on their targets,
but today they hold their orbits,
accumulating along with
vehicles and objects.
Boats from the harbour—
small ones at first—
float up to the roundabout,
circle suspended,
above the fish that follow under their hulls from habit,
fins swishing against the tarmac, bleeding.
Johnny opens his mouth,
sucks in hard,
uproots and swallows his statue.
It rattles in his stomach,
more and more distant. Palmettos and hapless ducks
get drawn in to the maw.
But his blackhole smile’s gained a taste for bronze,
spins the roundabout,
sends twisters out. One comes back
with Sir George Somers, so Johnny eats him
feet first, last piece of him into Johnny’s smile
his outstretched palms.
One comes back with Sally Basset,
Jonny’s smile gets wider:
as he absorbs her burn
his vacuum kills the flames.
One comes back
with a cage of Desmond Fountain’s children,
so Johnny swallows them
and the cage in one.
One comes back with a collection
of historic plaques that bend at insane angles
as they slip between his clenched teeth:
too much, surely this is too much?! he thinks,
but his inward draw won’t stop.
So he shifts the island under him,
smiles and absorbs whatever pleases him
from its orbit around him.
For now Johnny’s got some control,
can stave off the unthinkable:
total absorption.
His wave slows but doesn’t cease
and he keeps on blowing kisses
best as he can.


Chris Astwood is a Bermudian poet, currently working towards his PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia. His poetry has been published in online and print journals including IotaOther PoetryThe Rialto, and The Caribbean Writer.