Document 506

Preparing to Meet the Minotaur

Author(s): Sheena Blackhall

Copyright holder(s): Sheena Blackhall


Tussle: Inspired by Tussle for the Keg - John Pettie

Makk me
Buy it
Canna. Gimmit or I'll takk it
Try it an ye'll, brakk it

Gie it here ye nyaff
Or fit?
Skelp. Dunt. Scrat
Scram! I'm the winner o the dram!


My wish list
Doesn't include an egg by Faberge
Doesn't include a wonderful singing dove
Doesn't include a fleece on a far tree

When I lay me down to sleep I'll travel light
Fate's whistling at the gate
Can't take a laptop into Elysian Fields.

Tart and Cream

Dress the fading courtesan
In red uplift, basque of tin
Grim's a goalpost, the old tart
Wears a mask to aim her dart
Wicked in the living heart.
Stir her potion. Love's sour dream.
Whip and Bondage. Tart and cream.

Loaded Question

A mind may be a suitcase full of clouds,
A loaded question enters.
Should words pull the trigger?
Would their aim be true?

An artist's brush, primed
With leaves and shadows
Can split a rock dead centre
While words drip off like rain,
It all depends on your view.

Crabs and Haloes

I would like to run like a crab
Sideways, under a rock, letting the seaweed
Cover my retreat

Instead, I press my nose to Future's shop.
Apostle spoons rust over.
Haloes are mere dog-pee round a pole

Wishbone Wishbone
If I had a wishbone ...
Skyscrapers would suck the suburbs up
Every sign would have to learn a song.
Everyone's aches would melt away like snow
And old Age could take up its bed, and go.

Sp- it.

Sam Coleridge's favourite tipple
'Like one, that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread
And having once turned rounds, walks on and turns no more his head
Because he knows a fearful fiend doth close behind him tread'...
The Ancient Mariner

Roll up! Roll up! Step into the right eye of a junkie. Come on in.
He's taken vacant possession of an illegal substance
There isn't a bouncer on the door. A squatter's sitting hunched
Behind the sofa, waiting to mug your day.
A porcupine of syringes hangs from a human dartboard
Watch for the vampire coming to bleed you dry
It's a cunning bat. It hits the town with a leech and a sewer rat.
Put down the pineapple, it's really a hand grenade.
Exit quickly out of the sinister eye.

Oh soiled spring day whose tears will wash your feet?

Strange Converse

Conversing with strangers, their thin notes
Suddenly snap like piano wire
Tearing a perfect slit through cheese cloth,
Insecurity made visible as a rubber hose through gauze.

First meetings may be as pleasurable
As the interface between a nest of velvet
Incubating a brood of razor blades.

Better to be a television amoeba
Flickering in its slip-screen just awareness
Tuned to neither tenderness nor torment
Transmission on the blink till further notice.

Walking Meditation

No where to go but here. Nowhere to journey, but this I.
Cleaning its windows, I perceive the loch
As precious as a spanner to a mechanic
As beautiful's a seat is to a cripple.

What Lies Behind the Word?

What lies behind the word?
A room of mist and rain?
The drip-down steps to a well, where a waiting bucket sits?

What lies behind the word?
What sits in another's mind,
Is it Thought, like a smouldering coal?

Out, out with words! Away!
Unless they say what they mean!

What sits in another's mind,
Behind the gates of the eyes?
Is it plucking the beautiful feathers from a swan?

Wolf Pack
Look! Look quick or you'll miss him!
See! Another's there behind the beech,
Darting off where the leaves race in the wind!

Thoughts in the wolf-pack circle the raw poem.
Bolder wolves press almost onto the page
Nuzzle the syllables with dewy muzzles
Others wait in the shadows..
There! Where the beech is rustling!
See their bright eyes gleam!

Thochts on Meevement

I meeve throwe the warld wi ma harns.
Ma thochts are swippert an swack, slee an sleekit.
Cannie! Ane o ma thochts is teetin ahin yer lug
Is takkin aathin in. Is giein naethin oot.
Yon wee leaf that flichters aff the birk at the waa' s eyn,
Birlin an furlin micht be as teem's a shell efter the snail's gaen.
Ye dinna ken. Ye canna tell. Anely the snail can tell.

Three Craas an the Law o Karma

Takk tent o karma. Dinna deave the craas!
Blaik as deevilicks,
Craas are flang in yer face
Like seet back-blawn fae the lum.

Thon craas'll gar ye jink.
Foo daur ye wag yer neive
At three direct descendents
O the corbies fa theekt their nest
Wi a deid knight's hair?

Did ye nae ken thon three birds
Is the Morrigan resurrectit?

Takk a thocht tae yersel
Awa an fleg a doo.

Wee Fite Rose

May this, the day ye chose, be as the wee white rose
A joy preened tae the briest, hallowed bi Hope an priest

An fin the flooer is deen, may luv pruve evergreen
The vows ye freely makk, bide true till sun turns black

Stoot be yer reef an waa, a bield fin Storms blaw
Sweet are the ties that bind for those that Luv has jyned

May ye as man an wife, ken nocht o dule an strife
The path ye wauk be clear as larksang ower the muir


You has a hole in it clear through the middle
And two wide arms, sky-catching.
U is a mouth that opens to chew things over.
I, on the other hand am the last column of a Doric temple,
A chip off an old block.


I pulled a piece of Spring from the low dew,
Smuggled it into the house
Snuggled my eyes into its yellow glory
Yellow filled my iris to the core

Its golden petals transported me
Beyond Cortez
Beyond Da Gama
Beyond the claustrophobia of the room

Its silken scents were like Salome's veils.
Refreshing as a rainbow after thunder

The lily lay suspended in my hand
On the brink between flounce and wither

A shadow darkened the room,
An inner rain, a weeping haar.
Like Dauchau skin, the petals.

Not Charles Rennie Mackintosh

There's a stitched up rhino behind the radiator
A wall-eyed paper Eskimo peering from a book
Deadly nightshade is wrestling in the patio
It's an OK room to scratch the writing itch in
Fit to build ideas from, like a sofa
Not designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Poem-Path in the Botanics

Slates step through the grass
The roof has fallen
The walls are made of air.
Sun and clouds
Are papering the horizon


Everything under the sun
Should be given a chance of wholeness.
I don't know when I broke
Beyond redemption, a maze of glued up flaws

Rubber nipples plugged my infant mouth,
Useless as ballet pumps on an amputation.

Shards never mend. They only breed resentments,
Harbour hates. Militate against progress
They congregate in corners picking away at their sores.

You should let them get on with it. Stay well away.
They will only sit on your mantlepiece
Filling the house with ancient lamentations
Examining their breakages
Their cracks as raw's the day they hit the floor.

Crossing the Rubicon

Hate needs no passport, crosses checkpoints daily
It has no face, nor does it need a face.
It feeds on fear. It has no ear tuned to the thrum of mercy

Hate is the enemy within, plotting behind closed doors.
It cannot be taxed nor monitored by anyman's surveillance
It may sit beside you, Murder on the bus.
Hate can be one of us.

Greyfriar's Bobby Discovers Balquidder

Nae traffic. Nae fowk. Nae toun.
His barkin fulls the glen!

Fever Ward

Night in the ward was stormy.
Being slowly fried from inside, out,
Burning forehead, fingers twisting sheets.
Sister's lamp was a beacon
Dimly seen through mist.

Through hot black hours,
All the others wept
(Except for me, a young grave patient)
Rehearsing I thought, for death.)
I was a bubble in a small aquarium floating around them all
Very carefully, in case I happened to burst.
Very fragile, neither here nor there
Drifting anchorless in and out of consciousness.

I was not recorded
On the list of emotional casualties.
I did not run with the pack.
I did not lie on my back and howl.

'What a good girl,' the nurse said.
'No boo-hooing from you.
Crying helps others get things off their chest.'

Next day my mother came. An exquisite jewelcase
Her heart was a tight-locked lid.
We touched through glass, just as we always did.

Birthday Boy (3 year-old; overheard on a bus)

Fit a lot o flags are oot the day! The flags are makkin the sky happy!
Even the sun's smilin! Wisn't that nice o the Queen, Ma,
Getting thon flags oot fur me. Someb'dy must hae telt her
It's ma birthday!

Death of an Eel

With my three cousins, Duncan, Ewan, Neil,
Too young to help at harvest, small and slow,
We set off from the fann to catch an eel.

Ewan declared we would not need a reel.
He dug up curls of worms with his hoe,
Skewered them writhing onto hooks of steel.

The reedy banks sank muddy to the heel.
The burn slid, dimpling with an amber glow.
Like praying monks, we four bent down to kneel.

How Duncan laughed! 'They'll think it is a meal,
Our lure of worms. Look! There's a trout below!'
It floated up, the bit of bait to steal.

It nudged the hook, but turned a scaley keel,
Its tail, a rudder slapping to and fro,
Steered it beneath the waves grey ferns conceal.

A catch! A catch! My stealth had bagged an eel.
My line went taut. It felt as if a blow
Had struck my arm, as it began to wheel,

And twist, as if it sought its skin to peel
Away, so it might break that deadly towe.
Its agonies were speechless. Not one squeal
It was a knotted Celtic scroll of woe.
Death on a hook. Too late to let it go.

Maths Co-ordinates

Join the co-ordinates, quo she
I luiked at her cardi.
A raw o rompin rhombuses
Lowpin ower twa globes.


'I like my prison'
Said the flower held firm by the earth

'I like my bars'
Said the bird in the twiggy tree.

'Don't unlock my door'
Said the whale
As the harpoon tapped
At the wet black wall of his side.

I pace and pace my parameters of flesh,
Tied to the tides of blood.

The sun beats down,
A searchlight in the sky.

Each day I re-invent my self
Each day the same face
Stares out from the glass.

The acid bowl of death
Will wipe it clean.

A Book comes off the peg

I took a book off the peg
Tried it on, walked about in it,
Got the feel of it,
Wore its thoughts.

My imagination danced through every page
Merrily linking arms with total strangers
Stepping out from unsuspected sentences.


Snow can be kind
In its cold way
Like a social worker
It must be numb to work


To be a dreamer in the leaves
Is just as good as climbing trees
To watch clouds muster in the sky
I look up through a linnet's eye
And set aside all human care
A moment, in the harebell's lair.

Lily Pad

Tinkle tinkle goes the stream
Pouring its discursive theme
From the mountain to the pool
Always filling, never full

Lily pad conceals it past
Anchor, hidden by its mast.

Ghaistly Dauncers

These are the ghaisties in the glen
The flooers that Winter disnae ken
Vetch an speedwell, harebell, ling,
Blossoms that brier in sonsie Spring.

Each petal gies an oorie skreich
A sab that fulls the muirlan dreich
The tabor beat ben brittle reed's
The ghaistie-daunce o flooers that's deid.

For Tessa Ransford

'The word bites like fish.
Shall I throw it back free
Arrowing to that sea
Where thoughts lash and fin
Or shall I pull it in? (Stephen Spender)

Lang years her wummin' s hauns vrocht siller nets,
Wi smeddum, skeelieness an sweirity.
Ben pit-mirk oors she planned an manned a fleet,
Tae gaither wirds. ..a nation's barderie.

Noo that she's catched an keepit yon rich hairst,
Mapped oot the fertile banks o yon great sea,
Far poems are thochts that kythe an mell an steer,
Flichterin like fire-flauchts in yon Norlan bree.
Like Ulysses her boat can hamewird run,
Wechtit wi honours, aa its victories won,
An as the anchor draps tae herbour foon,
May poems like sunbeams, daunce aboot its croon.

Marie Antoinette in the Country

Not one splash of dung met perfumed silk
Playing at peasant, a queen with cheeks like apples
Carried silver buckets with arms as white as milk.

Not once did the Queen who knew no lack
Notice the guillotine's shadow behind her back
That would slice away her cake and her velvet chair
The pruning hook that lopped the Chateaux bare.

Bugs Migraine

Ma een are Aunty Mable's. Ma moo is Uncle Jim's
An frae ma faither's cousin I hae twa double chins.
Ma lug's a rabbit's burrow. He lowps in frae the rain
An thumps aroon ma cranium. I ca him 'Bugs Migraine'.

The Question

"Do you think I'll ever be happy?"
The young girl asked.
When parliaments were wrangling,
Religious icons crumbling,
Skyscrapers were tumbling,
Out of a troubled sky.

"Will I ever find a boy to take my hand?"
The young girl asked,
As political movements shifted,
Surveillance data was sifted,
Leaders loaded words and unfurled flags.

For people do not cry over enormities
When nudged to the edge of despair,
There is nothing but horror there.

When the slit-eyed serpent War
Is roused and hissing,
Talk is of broken toys,
Of homes and love and kissing.

And so it seems right after all
That a girl regrets
Her unshared bed,
The rites of book and blessing,
Like a shrine set out for quiet meditation
Its central focus, missing


Age is like rain. You can't stop it. It never pauses.
I am old, old. old. I would rather stay in, than go out
I am becoming a whisper. Once, I was a shout.

The Scottish Year

The month o Januar comes in
Wi droothy Hogmanay,
Auld Eel we'll fete wi reamin plate
Syne neist it's Burns' Day.

The month o Februar is cauld
The weeks rin faister yet
St Valentine brings flooers an wine
Let nane their luv forget.

In Merch, the bannock's in the pan,
Tae mithers, gifts are gien
The Teuchit Storm howls roon the barn,
The parks are brierin green.

Feel's Day takks in the Easter month
Fin eggs rowe doon the brae
There's sun, there's win, there's caul, there's rain
The skies weir hodden grey.

The first o Mey's a magic time
Gyang wash yer face wi dew
Ne'er cast a cloot till Mey be oot
Or cauld will gar ye grue.

In mony's a toon the month o June
Brings merriege tae the fore
For auld langsyne, the Solstice myne
The mountain taps explore!

In saft July the showdin hey
Is dried afore the weet
For gin St Swithin draps his tears
Fur forty days it's weet!

In August, guns are cleaned an iled
The corn begins tae fill
At Games an Fairs, fowk shakk aff cares
An daunce wi richt gweed will.

September's sere. TIle deein year
Brings Autumn's equinox
Fin hairst is cut, an windaes shut
An sleekit slides the fox

October: eildritch Halloween
An neepie lanterns bricht
Fin bogles steer wi faces queer
An guizers brave the nicht.

November. Bonfires licht the lift
Reid Poppies noo are thrang.
St Andrew's Day takks oot the month
Wi poem an Scottish sang.

December's here. Yule's near at haun
Wi bubblyjock an cheer
Takk up a dram baith maid an man
Tae toast the Scottish year.

Nettle Rules, OK?

Ca cannie stranger...l'm a nettle
I'm as saft as heavy metal
I staun here sae ye'll recaa
In ilkie life some rain maun faa
I'm the sting by beauty's side
Pu me friens... I'll scrat yer hide!

Willow Pattern

Text bridges link computer words to scanner
Trade info in their fey computer leid
Blue Japanese fowk peintit on an ashet
If they cud spikk micht gar ye scrat yer heid

Tae forge aheid, an founs o learnin bigg
Culture maun jyne wi culture, brig tae brig

Braille Land

In the world of constant night,
Fingers serve instead of sight,
To search a room, to clap a pet,
To feel if weather's warm, or wet,
With fingertip on studs of Braille,
Touch is a stick, a safety rail
That tells the toucher with a tap,
The contours of his sightless map,
Whether it's safe to stay, or go,
To forge ahead, or loiter, slow,
In the world of constant night
Fingers serve, instead of sight.


I would like to have been a bull-leaper
Keeping my options open
Taking Confrontation by the horns
Not meeting Him head on
Dancing off-range, off-focus
Out of site of His blood-shot eye
Elusive as a Cretan fire-fly.


On seeing a white horse. an old Scots superstition encourages folk to make a wish.

Wish-giver, a plea.
Don't let scientists modify Celts.
Please don't change the cut of our pelts

Wish-giver, you see
If they tried to reorder our runes,
And made us androgynous media-led clones
We'd be terribly tame. Mac-Ayes with no fiery cross raging
Would not be the flaming-well same.

Give crimson tomatoes twelve heads.
Cross parrots with bright philabegs
But don't douse the torch of my tribe,
That still smoulders and glows,
When we look in the face of Be inn Ciochan,
Mountain of sorrows and snows.


And then they came.
Too late to stop the taking,
Ears blocked to His cries,
The kicked chair, breaking.

Now, night comes dark's a bruise.
No cosy quilt
Can cover up that Minos-maze of guilt.

That leaving day far more than things were trashed
Lares, Penates, family bonds were smashed.

Two knotted strands. Love's woven there, but frayed
Forever tied. Betrayer and betrayed.

The Burnin Brand

For Flora Garry 1900- 2000

A waxen caunle- stump, rikk trails abeen
An oot-blawn braith, aa darg, aa poetry deen.
Stoor sattles. Midgies heeze in simmer heat.
Thochts steer far shiftin recollections meet.

I speired her eence 'Fit wye did ye stert late
Wi sic a gift, oor leid tae celebrate?'
Back cam nae slick repon, nae leein styte,
O writer's block or latchy Muses's wyte.

'Fin I wis young, I shone in King's grey airt..
My winsome face won mony a laddie's hairt.
Fin ye are happy, ye hae mair adee
Than spenn sweet oors on lanely poetry. '

Fierce pride in yon! A flooer, smert an braa,
Her reets ran ben the derk side o the waa,
A Buchan booer, far complex shaddas faa.

Murray an Garry. ..brilliance in the mools,
The yin an yang o literary jewels,
Used wirds they niver learned in scholar-street,
Bi turns, could gar ye rage. .or lauch. .or greet.

Their Scots, a burnin brand passed haun tae haun,
Kinnelt a line o lichts throw oor thrawn lan,
A bleeze o wirds nae even daith could smore,
As lang as een may read, and thocht explore.

for the late Alistair Taylor, former Preses o the Aiberdeen Branch o the Scots Language Society, Secretar o the Saltire Society
Furl o the fusky in the glaiss, braid haun, an lauchin ee
Kenspeckle chiel... a scholar's harns, a gyangin fit, an free.

I'd raise a dram o Lochnagar in memory o his name...
Wioot his glaiss tae clink agint it wadnae be the same.

Fin I gyang ower the Cluny brig, I'll dauchle bi the burn
An luik doon in its peaty face an bide awhile, tae murn.
A derker place is Beinn a Buird withoot its quate star,
His fitstep lued the springy peat, the bywyes o Braemar.

There's monny's the nesty, nippy tyke I'd gledly clart wi clay
Ahin the dubby kirkyaird dyke than yon gweed dominie.
Wi fearie tales o oorie glens, an Gaelic Bens sae wild
At his command - a lesser chiel Daith surely cud hae wyled.

Torphins withoot his sparklin wird is broth wioot the salt
Fur he wis smeddum, virr an spunk, an kindness, tae a faut.

Curtain Call

A thrush hops through the grass on twigs of feet.
The grass parts and shuts
Two emerald curtains closing.


The carrot wis scunnered wi life en plein air
Foo she wished she cud cheenge tae a paw-paw or pear
Foo she girned an banned at her cauld kailyaird hame
Sae tae seem mair important, she tuik a new name:
Miss Caroline Farquharson-Gordon of Finzean
(Bit they still drapped her intae the broth wi the ingin)

A Horse is an Honest Species

Horse is not deodorised or sanitised
It does not ache to fling its fetlock over a centrefold
It is immune to adverts
It'll crunch its clover
Without one foody fad

If it wants to stare all day at a tree, it will.
Its opinions are not standardised or marketed
Its travels are not ticketed or docketed
No horse watches another on CCTV

This moving barrel of grass on hairy legs
This horse, this muncher of meadows
This creature of wood and plain
Is remarkable sane
Accepting with equine-imity
Sun and rain

A horse is an honest species.


The table's there, but seldom used. It's called Conviviality.
An option, should I ever choose to offer hospitality.

A sagging armchair's by the fire. It's saturnine and surly,
With broken springs, and arm wings tashed by the hurly-burly
Of years of psychic ups and downs of angst and aggravation,
And there's a cushion at its back
That's kept for meditation...

Except, the cushion isn't real..And neither is the table,
And nor's the sagging armchair, for each object is a fable,
An introject, a puff of smoke within the mind's recesses,
Even the mind has disappeared (I've emptied all its presses
And all that's left's a little pile of question marks and guesses!)


Clouds, I'd like to borrow your weeping robes
And walk unseen, a nothing of light and hope
Over the glorious rainbow of non-being...

But how do you cross the bridge from Now to Nowhere
And what is the asking price for transformation?

Les Fleurs Du Mal
Looking in through the Windows of an abandoned Psychiatric Ward
Les fIeurs du mal. Forest of fragile flowers,
The emptiness is sinister. Like entering a Mediaeval minster.
After the Norsemen called.

Raindrops undergo a transformation.
Drop back into Primal Ground.
Reason lifts its long white cane and walks.

A single tear of water runs crookedly down
The streaky face of blank unsmiling glass,
A world within a world. Behind the panes
Lie ghostly fields of trembling, ruined grass


We're the ghaisties in the contract. We're the ink ye dinna see
We're the telephone, the e-mail. We're the perks some dinna gie
We're the muckle photocopier, the paper an the fax
We're the poems fae competitions cairtit oot the door in sacks
We're the heatin, we're the seatin, we're the kettle on the byle
We're a quate wee oasis oot the hassle, fur a whyle
If ye think we dinna maitter. ..Cut us aff, an see foo far
The ghaisties in the contract contribute tae fit ye are!


Dirlin teeth hae got a stang, as thrang's a beezer o a bummer.
A blichtit gum ... a fooshtie fang, wad gie a verra deil the scunner.

A hoast can set yer throat ableeze. A neb can dreep like leakin wallie,
Bit ice cream on a fillin ... Jeeze! Can gar ye skirl at ilkie swallie.

Tantalus, tho deaved wi drooth, Prometheus, ett bi a vulture,
Wad baith agree a stoonin tooth's the torture-king in ony culture.

An alligator bi the Nile needs far mair teeth than me, tae smile.
Near sixty fillins mair he'd need, tae stop teeth dirlin in his heid.

The Inquistion's rack micht raxx yer verra shanks frae oot their sockets.
Far coorser is an achin gum, fin reets flare up ... explodin rockets
Wi nae remeid an nae relief fit Sorra's loon inventit teeth?

On Supply

Alpha, Beta, Charlie, Delta, I wid like an air raid shelter,
In each classroom biggit wide, far teachers on supply can hide.

Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, Dante'd reinvent his Hell
If he faced a Primary 3, on a mental wreckin spree.

India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, timetable's a concertina,
Squeezed tae pack new targets in...Takk redundancy an fin!

Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra,
Roon the rafters watch them swing. Tell me Daith: Far is thy sting?

Tango, Uniform an Victor, watch oot fur the schools inspector!
X-ray, Yankee, Zulu- Noo I'm signin aff. I'm on the Broo
It wad takk the S.A.S. tae rule a classroom wi success!

Old Trout

Millicent's mother was a cold old trout.
Gave her a pair of wellies, a brolly, a Mac.
Pity the rain was inside and not out.


It was surprised to be noticed this morning.
I usually lug it round like bags of shopping
I fling it down any old where
I never fold it nice and neat and clean
This body I inhabit
When I sleep, I kick it off like an old shoe
Like a discarded husband, like a ripped stocking.
It is smelly and scrunched and scuffed
And slightly disreputable

Today, prejudice like a coffin lid
Slid one whole centimetre to the left
My body peered from its box, tapping softly against the ribs
Letting me know it was there, an old retainer
Letting me know who the real master is

Not the one who sits at the table
Over the laundered linen
Waiting nonchalantly to be served.


Being a zebra in a herd of horses,
A hot-dog short of a bun, is not much fun
However, a Zebra CAN be a traffic stopper
Of import to little green men and orange cones.


Were they lovers? None of your business
Or mine, for that matter. They laughed a lot together.
Decency was not breached.

At the age of ten I was told
Never to touch my father. Not even in kindness. Not even in fun.
I was to become a boulder, give him the cold shoulder
I come from a cold country. Even our rose is white

On Cloning

On hearing that anti-bodies are to be produced from sharks to improve human health and general well-being...

Soon, you may have an injection (Once they've ironed out rejection)
Syphoned from the lurky shark of shining teeth.
But what if you formed a liking, for a herring or a Viking
Or a paddler wading off the coast of Leith?

Should you saunter in the dark fortified with cells of shark
Would you masticate a passing cat or two?
Over dinner, would you munch the hostess, as well as lunch...
Or with the family terrier make do?

I say, why's it only shark? With a doggy gene you'd bark
And you'd terrify all muggers on the prowl
With sophisticated doses, under licence, one supposes
You'd suppress the lunar tendency to howl.

I don't want ajab of shark. I'd prefer a shot of lark
I would fly to perch upon the Crown of Kings. ...
Traffic jams would be redundant and the boons would be abundant
If the scientists could manufacture wings!

They are plotting so I've heard (But you musn't breath a word)
To cultivate a vaccine without pills
With a serum culled from bats and laboratory rats
To add radar to our armoury of skills.

If we' re making up a list of improvements, one they've missed
Is a drug to clone the human embryo
Make the double delegate, do the things you really hate
To long conferences, you wouldn't have to go!

Quote from Ted Bowman (Wed 29th May: Giving Sorrow Words) from the poet William Stafford who was asked 'How do you write a new poem every day?' Stafford replied 'Sometimes you have to be willing to lower your standards.'

Mr Success

Mr Success your cash don't impress, you car nor your fine degrees
How would you greet a tiger? I'm looking for answers, please.

What's your position on free range eggs? Should microchips be banned?
If the polar caps should open their taps, just where would you make a stand?

Don't flannel or swank, your class or rank add not one jot to your status
You're one more face in the human race between birth and death's hiatus

If you're straight or bent...Ifyou live in a tent or a skyscraper ten miles high
I want to go where your thin cracks show. Say, what do you think, and why?

Filleter (i)

The fish have been selected from the net
Place fish on the counter, belly down
Grip the fish by the head with practised hand

Open up the head down to the backbone
Cut and lift the first steak from the carcass
Turn the fish on its side, raise up the knife
Cut deeply, slit the belly, lift the fillets
The fillet lies stretched out upon the platter

First rule of the fish house. Pull your weight!
Be careful when you're handling a knife

Peel and slice off skin. It makes fish tough
Wash the scales from your hands in case they cling
Hygiene's important. Keep the fish house clean
Freeze those steaks offish which you can't use

The treasure of the fish house is the fillet
Neat and stacked, to be preserved or savoured

Facilitator (ii)
The intemet's been trawled for delegates
Lay notes on the table, opened wide
Grab the group's attention, show you're leader
Open up their minds, let in new thought
Set short tasks. Put group poems on the page
Tum their world on its tail. Pain can be precious

Mine their minds for golden glancing words
Rows of words lie waiting to be trinnned
Encourage others' writing. Do that well!
Be warned. Groups can breed stalkers, ragers, needers

Strike off phrases which make poems flabby
Break clean away, when workshop's done and dusted

Facilitate the day. Be cool and clear
Freeze any surplus words for future study
The treasure of the workshop is the poem
Fish and poems, produced with different sweats

Gaudeamus Igitur

The kilt's taen ooto mothbaas, fur Pride maun hae its sway
An aa because a graduate is gettin capped the day.
Yer nae a gype, ye've proved it, shown there's mair tae ye than oo.
It's wirth aa the years o warsslin tae reap the honours noo

Noo yer upwird an yer mobile... Ay; an sae are aa yer fiers
An ye niver thocht they'd families like yours, yer student peers.
Look! There stauns Fiona's faither...Nae a letter tae his name
Bit a millionaire twice ower sellin herrin fae the faem.

Lack o siller, lack o confidence sets goals ayont fowk's reach
Washes mony's the likely fitpreint fae Ambition's bonnie beach
An fur ilkie plum that's ripened, there are twenty sittin soor
Niver coddlit nur encouraged...Gaudeamus Igitur


Yule arrived this year, unmissable as a steam train
Approaching a victim tied to the tracks
Disgorging its annual surfeit of dead celebrities
At every TV station.
Multi- stomachs of Friesian cows
Like mighty turbo engines, had laboured titanically
Towards the production of milk for the custard layer
On top of the sherry trifle
Like a volcanic deposit, solidly stratified.

After the Lamentation of the bank balance
Came the laying on of tablecloths.
The Annunciation of the melon
The Adoration of the Turkey
The feast of the featherless host.

The parson's nose was gobbled.
The clock wore tinsel and sulked
A nest of scorpions went round wearing party hats
A cracking time was had by one and all
Bing Crosby drowned out a robin.
Yule came and went
Bland as a scentless fart.

The Computer's Day Oot

I thocht that my computer'd like a cheenge
(It hid bin luikin unca peely wally)
I tuik it tae the Gallery tae view
The wirks o Miro, Mondrian an Dali
I tuik it on an ootin tae the park,
Raither than typin poetry in the hoose
It sat an chittered in its plastic sark,
It winted hame. The cat played wi its moose.
It spat oot aa its discs. It wisna pleased.
An cairriet on like a wud thing, diseased.
I learned ma lesson. It is plain tae see
Ye canna butter up technology.

Preparing to meet the Minotaur

When I'm an ancient,
A caged cockatoo with nothing to do but moult
I'll straddle Pegasus and hitch a ride.

I'll own a mischievous zimmer
I'll abseil down the cracks upon my forehead
Thoughts will glissade off mountains
There will be an avalanche of poems.

Though they drug my Horlicks
Though my teeth may clack like coconuts hung out to dry
Though I may wear a beard as grey's Tiresias
Though I spray my 'pshaws' on the fronds of plastic vines
I'll continue to saunter down the valley of fantasy

Visitors will come bearing alms
Fluffy cardigans, or mint imperials
I must wear my props then, my medical aids
"All the better to see you with, my dear
All the better to hear you with, my dear
All the better to eat you with my dear."

Watching the threads on the carpet growing thinner
Preparing to meet the Minotaur licking his bull-black lips

Three Tinkers

Three tinkers chapt at the haa door, the lan frae far they cam,
Has riveries reid wi human bluid, that nae fish iver swam.

Day niver daws in thon fey lan. The raindraps frae abeen,
Are aa the tears o bitterness that faa frae human een.

There is nae springtime in thon place, nae simmer, saft an braw.
There winter reigns eternally. The Sizzen o the craa.

Diamond Carrot

If you're the only rabbit in the hutch
A diamond carrot is the telephone
That ringing in your ear can mean so much

Your skiis are wrecked. You're hobbling on a crutch
Promotion may be swiped by some old crone!
Text, page or bleep your work, and stay in touch

A spoken update can reveal so much
Don't e-mail. Hackers steal what others own
They'd snatch a takeover out from your clutch

You can't afford a round, you're going Dutch?
Ring up, excuse yourself, and stay at home
But keep your options open, stay in touch

See Whistler's mother pouting in her Mutch?
A sour-faced mare, as grim's a whippet's bone
She might have smiled, if joy had kept in touch

A burglar's in the house! You are in such
A panic. Hurry! Use your mobile phone
He'll soon find out you're not an easy touch
Dial 999. One call can do so much!

Home Sweet Home

Key in the lock, a shoved-wide door
Four rough strides on a plush red floor.

In comes the food. A hair on the plate
Steel fist punches a hymn of hate

Wipes the blood from his purple knuckle
Tightens a notch on his trouser buckle

No golf tonight. Mop up that stain.
Clouds in the East. Yes, it looks like rain.

Job Description

Fit wye div ye nae like cookin?
Aa mas are supposed tae like cookin.
I dinna ken ony ma bit you that disnae cook.
Darren Buchan's ma makks stovies, skirlie, clootie
AND she cleans his sheen.

It isnae pairt o the job description?
Fit kinno a spikk's thon?

Playgrun Fecht

"I wint tae be yer frien"
A whine. A plea.
Nae respite, nae let up
A deave, a secunt shadda

I warned her, fair an square
"I like tae be alone"
Bit thrawn or daft
She didna takk it in.

I skelped her hard on the neb
Rugged oot a daud o hair
"Fecht! Fecht!" the ithers skirled
Eekin me on.

The upshot wis, I won
Some kind o victory
Yet, ma neive wis stounin

Seen from a Low-Flying Helicopter

The low flying helicopter
With blades like dervish knives
Sheared the wind
Over phantom fields of corn,
Swaying golden on the parking lots of cities

Twa Brithers at Seaton Chippie

Johnny! Dicht yer face! Yer chikks is manky.
"Ma nose is rinnin Dannie..."
Use yer hanky.

"Gie me a pickelt ingin wi ma chips?"
Yer moo is aywis bigger nor yer belly!
"Can I ging oat tae play? Ma's on a date!"
It's dark. We'lljist ging hame an watch the telly.

"Dan, can I hae a coke? I wint it! Wint it!"
Yer jist a flamin scunner. No, ye canna.
"Dan, can I clap yon big Alsatian dug?"
Nuh. Stuff yer face wi this. Here's a banana.

"Yon mannie gien's a penny fur ma bankie.
Yon wifie says I'm jist a cheeky monkey.
It's affa caal. I wish I cud get cosie."
Climm up then, an I'll heat ye in ma bosie.

Waddin Toast

Guid health tae the newly wad couple! May their merriege be merry an lang,
As a weel-wuvven coracle, rhythmic and close, bob-bobbin life's oceans alang.

Guid gear, tae the newly wad couple! May their kist be weel-stappit an braw.
May their littlins be fair as the rose in its lair in the glimmer an glisk o the daw!

Guid crack tae the newly wad couple! May they mver be crabbit or soor
Bit keep sweet as the peat-heather hinney that's cupped in yon heich mountain flooer!

Kind friens, tae the newly wad couple! May Sorra and Tribble be niver
Allowed ower the length o the lintel, o the hame they hae biggit thegither!

Guid luck tae the newly wad couple! May the sun wi a fecht niver set!
May the ring on the bride's merriege finger niver tarnish wi wae nor regret!

The Sangster

The heidy wine in ilkie haun, a glitterin company
Fur fyew cud string the shinin wird, my love, sae weel as ye.

An tho aroon the steerin room like fireflauchts fowk did flit
Inbye my hairt as ye stept ben a thoosan caunles, lit.

I watched ye movin back an fore..Gin ye hid bin a swan
I wished that I hid bin the loch lay neist me ye at dawn.

I watched ye movin back an fore. Gin ye hid bin a reed
I wad hae bin the pearlin dyew that sattIed on yer heid

They say a robin sings its best wi'ts briest pressed tae the thorn
Tae see anither bi yer side an ill thing me be borne.

Oh I hae sung in boose an haa, bit ne'er sae sweet or strang
I wis a flame fur ye alane because ye prigged a sang.

The Rocher Brew

The stoppered bottles, whyles, we meet, the contents maun be scanned wi care
'Colleague' 'Employer' 'Doctor' 'Priest' afore we pree the contents there.

Stranger, aquaintance, Onyman afore we chuse me ken them better
Maun first be sipped tae wyle the taste, be't soor or sweet, be't cauld, or hetter.

The stoppered bottles that we meet (Weel-kept, nae moosewabs ye can see)
Micht serve me pass a meenit's space. The rocher brew micht kinder be.

There's vintage wine - ye ken the kyne decants wi pomp an siller speen
The rocher brew, sweet Natur's dew, will aywis prove the better frien

Luikin in the Coffin

Luikin in the coffin, he thocht
"She wis naethin special."
Naethin special, luikin at naethin special

A Letter from the Archangel Gabriel

Dear Angus Og,

It has been brought to my attention by the Management
That you've been sending prayers up 20 times a day.
Angus Og, you are clogging up the prayer-ways for genuine emergencies.
Morag Mac your favourite ewe, gone off her feed
Is not an event of cataclysmic proportions.

Think of your fingertips, Angus.
Are they not calloused by telling the beads?
How would it look if you murdered the postie at Abriachan
And weren't apprehended for months
Because you had worn your fingerprints away?

Furthennore is it necessary, normal, or kind,
To try to convert the rams in the next field?
The shepherd at Drumnadrochit is a Protestant,
He does not wish his sheep to be confessed.

Would you consider puting your prayers on microfiche?
On a deeper theological level, Angus Og,
'Lamb of God' was just a poetic symbol.
Heaven's above, we're crowded enough already!

The Gracefu Trinity: for Helena Anderson-Wright

Far pine wid trees staun Tam-Linn green, three veesitors in velveteen
(Rich russet coloured ilkie coat, wi ruffs o fur aroon the throat)
Arrived ae gloamintide tae dine, their liquid een like Spanish wine.

Mony's the gweedly company has met in fine festivity
On yon snod lawn, bit nane sae fair as thon three graces gaithered there.
Like quines dressed fur a glitterin ball, the mist clung tae them like a shawl.

Dew-drookit flooeries at their feet, keekt up at them, wi nectar, weet.
The birk let doon her tresses braw. The creepin cat drew in her claw,
As frae the misty gloamin air, they stepped frae ither-wardly lair.

The deein sun flashed firey-reid, stars lichtit up abeen each heid.
Swippert's a swan wis each ladye within thon eildreich Trinity.
As hauntin as a loveseek sang, the deer, that tae the pinewid cam.

Under the Full Moon

Under the full moon
Pipistrelles live up to their bad press,
Silken fiends not up to any good.
Bees sleep in their wax chambers
Coyly rehearsing Autumn

The gross toad lollops across the milky grass
Arse studded with khaki warts, he is off on manoeuvres
Keeping his eyes peeled for maggoty business.

The hare's ears quiver with cold.
In spider-shrouds the moist peels off the Ben

Under the full moon
The loch is an ancient cradle
"Balloo, balloo", it has sung for a thousand years

Dreams lie in its lap
It rocks them gently, gently, in two gnarled hands
It rocks them gently, gently, in two gnarled hands

Its one eye fixed on the moon
Constantly reaffirming its position.

Lean Pickings

In winter nests are empty of violins.
The sombre eye of the cello is fixed on trees
Where green ships lie at anchor, rigging furled.
Robins like wooden puppets tug at heart strings
The stake in the icy heart of the forest floor
May one day yield a rose
Or a rotten mushroom filled with worms and mould.

Yet, out of the charcoal season nightingales always fly
Encore! Bravo! Pouring a welcome out to the certain Spring
That's round the comer, whether you will or no.


Through the eyes of my feet
Moor grasses fork and splay
Moss bounces. Ferns rush to genuflect

Rain and the winds of day
Will wipe them clean away

The Villanelle Therapy

The kernel of this villanelle
In rhyme, attempts to prove a link
Of things to do to make folk well

By singing they can soon dispel
Despondency and make it shrink.
A drawing pencil can propel

A hand to pictures that compel
The inner eye to seek the brink
Of symbol-land, where icons dwell

They may sit quiet as a cell
Of monks, and in blue biro ink
Write words small troubles to retell

Writing is strong's a magic spell
Better to float on words than sink
How powerful it is to tell

A story when you can't foretell
What lies behind the reader's blink
Who in the silence of his shell
Drinks in your tales as quick as wink
So write to cure, if not to sell
A therapeutic villanelle

Skeletons off Prince's Street

Abeen the cream jug, fite as a carnation,
They claikt on culture, literature an nation,
Twa weemin newsin aboot hames an wars,
Checked oot domestic minefields, battle scars.

Skeletons hing like jaikets in fowk's presses.
Whyles wi a stranger, fowk micht try them on,
If they nae langer frichten or dismay,
Their ghaisties bit the shadda o a dwaum.

Mebbe thon wis the bait that lured her oot,
Thon Handsel / Gretel crumbs o the irrational,
Like Darnley's silken face mask, drappin aff,
Barin the pox, the blether turned confessional.

Fa'd sung her aince, a lullaby o frost
This exile. in the shaddas o the lost?
Her life wis crystal, cracked ayont remeid.
Let slip an shattered, chaos in her heid.
Nae meenit's claik can mend the evil oor
Hope smashed inbye. A single haimmer cloor.


I'm a tick-tock person,
A clock watcher, a time clutcher.
I'm a quick-ticker.

If I'm late,
My pulse rate runs staccato.
I may just detonate,

Citizen Seagull

Good morning citizen seagull!
A hundred thousand welcomes on your croak!
May you lord it over Union Stret forever
Cryptic as a conversation lozenge.

The Primary Source: in search of linguistic purity

He tuik Intercity tae Embro, (mair beasts in thon zoo than the Ark)
Tae see Kali the Bengali tiger, wi her cleuks an her braw strippit sark,
Bit he wisna impressed bi her antics, tho she roared wi a hurricane's force,
Fur fin he broke doon her semantics, weel, she wisna a primary source.
Withoot wishin tae seem ower pedantic, she wis Scots, wi a thochtie o Norse.

Neist he gaed tae a show at the theatre, far the star wis a pantomine horse.
It could whinney an trot... bit he caredna a jot, fur it wisna a primary source,
As he kent, fin it rent doon the middle, and its halves tuik an instant divorce.

A soprano frae bella Milano, sang her hairt oot until she grew hoarse,
Bit he shot doon her sang wi a critical bang, fur she wisna a primary source.
Na, her ma wis a gutter frae Fitty, which diluted the aria's force.

At the interval, platters o oysters, war served as a maitter o course...
Bit they didna tempt him, they cam ooto a tin, fur they warna a primary source.

A ventriloquist chiel frae Findochty, spakk in Cantonese, Zulu an Morse.
His claik wis as fake as a soya bean steak, fur it wisna a primary source
Twis the "ugh" in a caveman's polemic, wis the birth o phonetics, of course.
Be as dreich as Methuselah's dandruff, fowk will queue up tae hear yer discourse
As lang as yer sure the linguistics are pure an they cam fae a primary source!

Deid Balloon

Ma heid floats on the loch.
Deid balloon on a slop o wattery clouds

Auld Crocs

Birk trees raxx up. Their trunks, like auld crocs' hides
Catched in a larry's lichts
Are yalla, oorie. Swamp flop-belly deid.

Small Movements on the Shore

A jack-knife bend of straw tugged by a wave
Sunbeams creepy-crawling on a crab
A thorn's fang slashing the air
Shadow spilling like wine on sodden linen

Sea, sucking the multiple nipples of shore
Rainwater in a sluice, wet candy-twisting
Bubbles blipping like tadpoles up through mud

Waves like bobbing buoys, exhuberant seals.
Sandbars rolling at anchor. Seaweed tugging its tethers
Pebbles rocking the boat
Sunlight piercing mother of pearl skies.
Hanging in reedy fathoms, dismal seaweed

Fishes flickering on ocean's silver screen
Pebbles rattling Neptune voodoo sticks
Shells melling into shards, a charnel house
A curling feather blowing across the shore
Waltz in their wings, the ubiquitous gulls above
A terne's pupil wavering on the blink
Tableau vivant of sea and screeching bird.

Degas Absinthe Drinker

Trees, dripping, music, tinkling.
An hour in the warm café
Might be a hiatus in one girl's
Personal anarchy

Tables, crowded, faces strange.
Absinthe is cheap,
Her demon and her friend
Miss Alki's one familiar.
There's no change.


Words drip from the pen in painful syllables.
To write is to heal, to reveal things long lain hidden.

Like desert winds that shift, unexpectedly baring a skull
Or a silver bell, dropped from a dancer's foot.
The incidental things that make as human.


Long before weft and wool, remember the fur you borrowed,
Between birth and dying, warm as a crackling fire?
No fangs hissed at the collar
No claws slashed from the feet
No tail flicked the flies around your haunches.

Oh but you enjoyed it
Remember? Remember?
Not for its glamour. Not for its chic

I dare you. Touch it. Feel it. Let your sides fill
With the deer's swiftness, the bear's strength
The pelts you once put on to face the world.

On Singin Gallawa Hills: for the late John Watt Stewart, Cotton Street
The frost sat in my cauldrife hairt, ice glittered in ma een
The driftin sna in the deid thraa blew ben my thochts yestreen
An ilkie note like jagged scree I climmed as I'd bin telt
A ghaistie's fitpreints merked the wye, Lear, neither bocht nor selt
An as the muckle sang swallt up, the weary wastes o sna
Soughed ben each limb. Unseen, the linn roared ben the packit haa.
I didna sing fur praise nur cheer, nur did I sing frae need
I sang tae pass the ballad on.. A gift frae ane lang deid.

mr poseidon

Out of the crucible of the sea
Out of the Nile, Euphrates, Tigris
Out of the Thames, the Tweed, Atlantis
Out of the Styx, the Tiber, Lethe,
Rises a queer fish of a sea-salt
His shovel beard all spittle-stiff with spray,
Something slimey from
Davey Jones's locker
Taking the dog watch
Keeping his head above water.

I think his mouth
Makes music for the waves
Dancing up from a thousand ocean graves

Behind his eyes I hear the tempests roar
I almost see the hurricane's cold spray

So calm, he seems
But inner storms are raging
Old wounds old terrors
Far beyond assuaging.

mr poseidon
I'm the one with pearls and fishes in my side
mr poseidon,
I will not rock your boat
mr poseidon
I will lie with the nets and seaweed
I will practise not to swim against the tide.


Chimneypots with the fire gone out,
The mathematician, the rich, the sick,
Take a break from the waking world,
Close their eyes, with the slow, the quick.

The phone may ring on its plastic perch,
It's screech unheard in the sleeper's zone.
All men drink at the pool of dream,
All men kneel at the pool alone

Turbulent day with its heres and theres,
Closes its door. "Good riddance" I say
To its whys and wherefores, its snaps its snares,
"Bring on the moon and the Milky Way"

I lay me down with a questionmark...
Puzzles are solved before the dawn
The wizard who works in the webs of dark,
Has found an answer for every one!


Dragon fly. Dragon gone. Gone dragon.
Fly high dragonfly. Drag one fly. One I, dragonfly.
Shimmer-slimmer. Sun swimmer. Light skimmer.
Snag-rag. Light gutter. Flutter stutter. Breath splutter
Dragon-flame hiss gone out.

Death of a Fox

From the great green glacier of woods
Fox streaked through a red stop

One shot sent the fur head bouncing
Into the waving fern

A shot, a bounce, a flop.

Caught on the Hop

Grazing fridges, shoppers scavenge scraps.
Outside, on Asda's living larder... lush green lawn
Is the cats' self-service.
Poo pods pepper the grass
Like Libyan raisins

Our cat bagged a bunny, caught on the hop
A fast food takeaway .
"Oh pussy, what big eyes you've got"

Floppy's a rag doll, dried blood stuck to its teeth
The rabbit's slumped head was a jester's cap

Four funy legs down-dangled.
The prey, eventually, slain.
Tom scooped the brains
From their delicate porcelain bowl
A fastidious feeder, no mess on the mat.
One funy paw was left behind for afters

Honest assassin, hunger pangs assuaged,
The filled cat sprawls and purrs,
His feline conscience clean.

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Preparing to Meet the Minotaur. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 12 July 2024, from

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Information about Document 506

Preparing to Meet the Minotaur


Text audience

General public
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Word count 8944

Text medium


Text publication details

Publisher Self: Limited Edition / Thistle Reprographics
Publication year 2004
Place of publication Aberdeen

Text type

Other Collection of poems


Author details

Author id 112
Forenames Sheena
Surname Blackhall
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 16
Upbringing/religious beliefs Brought up Protestant, now Buddhist
Occupation Writer and supply teacher
Place of birth Aberdeen
Region of birth Aberdeen
Birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Aberdeen
Region of residence Aberdeen
Residence CSD dialect area Abd
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Manager of Deeside Omnibus Service
Father's place of birth Aboyne
Father's region of birth Aberdeen
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Private Secretary
Mother's place of birth Aberdeen
Mother's region of birth Aberdeen
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gaelic; Scottish Gaelic Yes Yes Yes Yes Elementary. Gaelic choir. Poetry.
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes