Author(s): Sheena Blackhall
Copyright holder(s): Sheena Blackhall
This document contains strong or offensive language
I was a bulge baby, pushed out on rented sheets
Sooty's a coalman's daughter, smirching the white linen.
The others were so fair, and you with your jet black hair
Like you'd just come down the chimney.
Breasts were dirty. I tugged my milk
From the end of a rubber teat.
A seminal blot. Babies cost such a lot!
Mother, a dutiful hostess, scrubbed her knuckles raw
On the washboard's metal ridges
Was that when I burned my bridges?
A net across the pram kept cats from my mewling face.
I learned fast to recognise my carers
So green, so lush
The lullaby of leaves,
The beech tree's hush.
So small. Size of a peach. Four times it opened
Releasing children onto the virgin beach of the world.
How could they know out there were dancing bears
With sharp thorns in their paws
And broken songbirds, limp, with bleeding claws?
Homage to the Ancestors
Inspired by a lecture given by Charles Calder (University of Zambia) on 'Word and Image. Interaction in Royal Luanda Ceremonial', Word and Image Conference, Kings College Aberdeen, 11/5/2001
Many wombs opened before my coming,
In Catholic Normandy, flat Flanders,
The past turns in its coils,
Blood of my tribe, spent rubies in its eyes.
Dutch, French and Gaelic, pounded into the gritty bread of Scots.
I was an old man's child,
Singer of songs as all his village knew,
Who made the short walk to the grass
In a warm winter,
Grief and joy like sword-cuts on his brow.
One brother sleeps by the maple,
Another fill the bellies of Inca worms.
My mother, a withered gourd
Came late to the birthing bed
Her christening present to me was a thorn.
Many wombs opened before my coming.
Quiet doors in the spirit house on the moor
Where grandmother's ghost is weaving a wooden cradle
So she may nurse my bones.
Angel-face, short sock, straicht cut fringe,
Oot on a veesit tae a frien on the scheme
'Gonna watch a video, eat some crisps,
Harne afore it's dark Ma, by 9.15'
'Bring' gings the telephone, cord like an eel,
Hett braith catches in the mooth-piece net.
Lug like a clam.'Yer quine's nae weel.
Casualty calling. Are ye aa richt, pet?'
Doon on the rail line stray dug's bark
Glue sniffers dauchle far it's ile-can dark
Wee quine playin wi her toys an dalls
Follaein the teenage bairns, her pals.
Voddie in a bottle o the Irn Bru,
Fizzed up, screwed up, she is stottin fu
Wee quine dauncin tae a strange new beat
Like a runawa peenie on pure mental feet
Wee quine faain like a coin gaun plop
'Screich' gings the ambulance come tae mop her up.
Angel face, short sock, straicht cut fringe,
Tubes in her veins like straas in a jar.
Heid fu o monsters, a doctor's syringe,
Bangs inno bruises that are black as tar.
Wee tottie lassie, blootered on the road,
Picked up an patched, like an auld torn cloot.
Played hide n' seek by the auld rail line
Thank God they fand her, or she'd be oot.
Donnie in the mornin, getting Izzy up
Makkin sure she feenishes the cocoa in her cup
Puin on her schule claes.... butterin her toast
Raikin fur a sweetie, tae sooth his sister's hoast.
Izzy's peed the bed again. Izzy disnae sleep
Donnie's waukent hauf the nicht, coontin stars an sheep
Hamewirk's niver haundit in. Teacher'll ging gyte
Denner money's niver pyed. Donnie gets the wyte.
Dealer on the corner, sellin hash an smack
'Hello Mrs Flanagan. Wid ye like some crack?
Wid ye like a dooner, an upper or an e?
A ticket fae the cooncil scheme tae lan o fantasy?
Dealer's watchin Donnie. 'Here's a penny, son.'
Easy catchin customers fin confidence is won.
Needles, gear an syringes lie aside the bed
Wi Donnie's pyoke o polomints an Izzy's Mr Ted.
Ma sez she lues them, her bairnies are her treisurs
Bit mas hae needs like littlins. An mas maun hae their pleisurs
Fit's aa the steer aboot? She disnae wauk the street!
She niver lifts a haun tae them! They've aywis crisps tae eat!
It's lanely fur a littlin fin the dragon comes tae play
Fin the big fowk on the sofa dinna hear a wird ye say
She niver leaves them hame alane tho bendin aa the rules
Mas can be hame bit hyne awa, fin yer a junkie's jewels.
Young Toun Crazies Rule, OK?
Back o the Bingo, they aa hing oot, Wee Mo, Pamela, Jake an Spats,
Big Plug Patterson, Ranjit, Newt, Jinx McPhail frae the high rise flats.
Wee Mo, Pamela, Jinx an Spats, fower moos puffin on the ae weet fag,
Fower lums rikkin like Ganges ghatts. 'Pass roon the cancer, gie's a drag'.
'Young Toun Crazies Rule,' they craw. Big Plug Patterson sprayed his name
Wi a tinnie o gloss on the bike shed waa, the Jackson Pollock o Deid-End Lane.
Strongbow cider's chaiper nur ye think, soor an strong, bit ye maun belang,
Bauld an gallus efter ae wee drink, Young Toun Crazies, the hale jing-bang.
Jinx haived a steen at a windae peen... Tinkle, tinkle, the schule room glaiss
Bobbies at the door bi the licht o the meen.
'Are ye his ma wi yer feart-like face?'
Ranjit's pooch hauds a bottlie o hooch, chored frae the grocer, Bill McGraw.
'If ye wint tae be in the Y.T.C. dee fit we tell ye. Oor wird's law.'
Newt is chitterin, his claes are thin. Bides wi his gran. She's a coorse auld troot.
King o the causie, kickin at a tin, Newt luvs Mo, bit he cannie spit it oot.
The street is cauld, and the street is teem, anely the tom cats strut their stuff,
Roon the dug-pished waas o the caoncil scheme,
Far the tellies growl, an the lullaby's gruff.
The video plays. Aa the doors are shut.
'KIMBERLEY-ANNE YE'VE MISSED THE BUS!
YER HEID'S IN A SCHULE BUIK, SOOK-SOOK SWOT'
The pack yowl oot 'ARE YE EEN O US?'
Kimberley-Anne gotta giftie frae a frien...
Wrappit roon wi tin-foil. Daith in the bluid.
Kimberley-Anne she sits her leen,
Wauked wi the dragon on a short, short, lead.
Her wee dall's face is a mask o steen.
A knife in her bosie, a wirm in her heid.
According to some sources, St Machar's Cathedral is the resting place of some of Scotland's national hero.
Inno the waa o St Machar's kirk
There's a bit o a hero fa held a dirk
William Wallace, if ye could gie
Yer D.N.A. fur posterity
In Holyrood fitna a steer there'd be
As the member fae Widside, RIP
Gaed clankin doon, a stinch like chiel,
sikkin the richts tae his film as weel.
Toddlin I creep it, neist I shauchled
I lowped, I breenged, fin sair, I hirpled.
A halflin I stravaiged at ease
I daunced or dauchled ben the trees
Until I hytered. Doon I fell
Near drooned in my ain wishin well
It wis a tyauve tae scrammle oot
A hauf-drooned wyver oot a spoot
I'll wish nae mair. I'll nae luik back
Fur wishin wells are deep an black
An this is foo I dinna rin
The safer throw the warld tae win.
An Open Letter to Mr MacNormal
Fit if my skin wis blaik as tar? Wid ye kiss ma moo wi-oot a grue?
Fin the wee Scotch comic sez, 'Ae beat gars aa blaik-skinnt fowk tap their feet'
Wid ye agree? Shift ben yer seat if I sat aside ye? Wid ye noo?
Fit if ye passed a kicked-in shop? If I wis a plooky halflin there
Wid ye turn me intae the nearest cop? Nae even speir fit I'm deein there?
Gin you and masel should disagree, it's nae ay doon tae PMT!
Fit if atween ma legs there swung, twa baas. Wid ye show me mair respeck?
Dae ye value a wummin's opeenion, fair an square, like a chiel'd expeck?
Fit if ma chooks war sookit in? Ma face wis wrunkled? Ma hair wis thin?
Wid ye see the speerit aneth the skin, Mr MacNormal, or are ye blin?
Fit if ye saw me nurse a bairn, a teet in ma left haun, syringe in ma richt?
A junkie ma. Wid yer broos knit, stern? Wid ye pit me ooto yer blameless sicht?
Fit wid ye dee, if I speired fur cheenge as ye wauked on by on weel-heeled feet?
Wid ye teem yer pooch? Wid ye turn awa?
Fur fear oor warlds, or wir een should meet?
Mr MacNormal, fit if I rode on a cuddy's back doon Princes Street?
Heich upon real-life ecstasy wi the reid stigmata upon ma feet?
Wid ye gie me a hame in the city slums?
Community care fur the drap-oot bums?
Mr MacNormal fariver ye bide, in Rubislaw Den or in Kelvinside
Wi yer internet fur a stockin-filler, fariver ye bide, yer god is siller.
The Millennium Speerit is threids an thrums.
The Peer aye wyte fur the Rich Man's crumbs.
Belt rose, a rainbow, fell, a thunderclap.
A shower of tears dropped over grimy hands,
Earth-moist as tubers. Laying-on of strap.
The beastie nurse sipped coffee, whispered names,
Of those who housed each multiplying nit.
Elly, lovely ringlets breeding lice
Would graduate from louse, to scab, to zit.
She was a sparrow pecking round for praise.
Hard lines. Her nails were loam. Her shell ears hungered,
For words of warmth. False Hope only dismays.
The sun was heavenly... almost Apostolic.
Ascetic vests were stuck to toast-rack bones.
'Fuck offs' were soaped from tongues by green carbolic.
Slavering Alsatians sniffed round bricks and stones,
Arcing their pee to shoutings vitriolic,
From tenements with shady undertones.
A spike of railings ring-fenced the state school.
No leafy hedges softened up the scheme,
The classroom was a chessboard one could rule,
With fifty chessmen, bowing to a Queen.
'No-hopers', was the verdict. 'Dead-end fodder'.
'With many three quart peat and one quart Celt.'
All exits barred. The festering scheme a ghetto
Poor beastie-breeders in the Central belt.
Littlin gyang forrit. There's naethin tae fear,
The widlan is Pleisur. Nocht touches ye here.
Nae bummer wad stang sic a deintie wee lass,
Ye shakk like a leaf, lassie. Rise noo, an pass.
The hey park is heich as ma heid. Foo it briers
Like an airmy o sodjers. A howefu o spears!
It's fusperin, fusperin, trystin me in
Tae be scythed tae the grun, like the roch muirlan whin.
The sea's playin, littlin. Oh dinna staun, cowed.
There's puils tae be paiddlit, there's sun shinin gowd
Its clooks claw tae claim me... the tide rages roon...
Fur a wattery grave, far the fisher fowk droon
Yer blethers are havers... rain stottin aff tin.
Fear drums in ma lug. I maun rin like the win.
Littlin climm easy. The warld's at yer feet.
Sae lichtsome the road hapt wi heather an peat!
The clouds crood aroon me. The lift's gaun tae drap
Ma hairl's a wud greyhound that Terror cud stap!
Licht yer neep lantern! Come, littlin, step oot
In the nicht far yer brithers are birlin aboot.
Canna ye see that the neep lowe's the licht
O the Deil as he wytes in the derk oorie nicht?
Littlin fit ails ye, tae coorie sae blate?
Ye've heat in the hairth an ye've breid on the plate.
A corbie fur howdie. Oh cauld is the crib
Fin a bairn comes unwinted, wi Sorra its sib.
A lammie sherp thorn busses circle aroon
A wirm etten dall in a clay corpse's goon
The Low Road Hame
Inspired by the painting "Maternité", by George Hitchcock.
She humphs a muckle wechty pack,
A littlin in her airms,
Twa dooncast een, twa trauchelt sheen,
A pathie, teem o cherms.
A weariet deem. Afore her een,
Her shadda raxxes, black.
A wee fitfa, in stirkie's staa,
The laddie at her back.
An neither spikks, fur spikk is by,
They haik the stoory road,
That aa maun wauk, frae first day-brakk,
Each, wi his different load.
Wi some auld wrang, her thochts are thrang.
Her bairn wad like tae climm
Intae her briest. Anither, reists
Far aince she bosied him.
A mither's like the risin sun,
She smiles, the bairn rins weel.
Bit fin she's wae, it soors his day,
And dowie is his dreel.
A meenit's rest wad cheer the bairn,
Fa hyters on clean-deen.
The mither seeks a langer sleep...
The wyvin girse abeen.
Joan X and Mary Y were admitted today.
Three hours ago they shared a labour room
Clicking machines, productive screams
Hot hands pressed like leaves.
One cot empty
One cot full
Rain is blearing the window, gumming the sticky view.
Cut roses bloom in the ward.
Their short, forced flowering fills the room with scent,
Red and heavy and wet.
Joan Y does nothing but cry.
She is breaking the waters of grief.
Her child was un-becoming.
Someone has sent for the chaplain,
With words for every event.
He will not bring a card, or a teddy dressed in black.
Mary X does nothing. Her baby came to term,
Was born and lived. Sadly on this occasion,
The mother's love miscarried, did not survive the labour.
The afterbirth is slippery with guilt.
The living child stirs in its hungry cot,
Needy for touch and taking.
The tiny hands reach out like tentacles...
Its mother is stitched up tight.
The Sister bends and lifts the weeping bundle,
Places it tenderly
Onto the mortuary slab of a blue-veined breast.
The live child lies like ash in two cold arms.
Two deaths on the ward today,
And not one easy,
And not one kind.
Candlemas: The Purification of the Virgin
February 2nd is known in Christianity as 'The Feast of the Purification of the Virgin', coming from the earlier Roman festival in honour of Februa, mother of Mars which was celebrated with burning torches and candles. In Latin, Februata means 'to expiate, to purify'. Women carried candles in the street in honour of Ceres who searched through the Underworld for her lost daughter, Persephone, to reclaim her from her husband Pluto, and restore fertility to the land.
Creepin throw the leafy fen, twa sma feet cam steppin ben
Humbled noo, fa aince wauked prood, a lassie wi a back that's booed.
Nae a wechty pack tae bear, she is loadit doon wi care
She'll nae win back fit she has gaen, aathing rypit, aathing taen.
Kneel doon by the burn an greet, Quine, for here ye eesed tae meet
Wi the ane fa stole yer pride in the bonnie gloamintide.
Aince ye cairriet a gweed name. Watter winna wash yon stain
Frae it, nor restore tae ye, back, yer tint virginity.
Lassie kneelin there sae blate, wash awa. It's late, ower late
Tae win back fit he did pree, Innocence and chastity.
Scoor yer skin an dicht yer face. Clean yer claes an tie yer lace
Stockins, crooked at the seams, Lassie, lassie, like yer dreams.
inspired by Afterglow - Joseph Farquharson
Fitpreints in the gloamin, fitpreints in the sna,
Meltit bi the mornin, in the rinnin thaw.
Fitpreints in the gloamin, far hae ye gaen?
Trystin wi a laddie, far ye waurna seen?
Fitpreints in the gloamin, lichtsome, gaun awa
May the luv he promised, laist langer than the sna.
He was as beautiful as sin.
A hooded falcon,
Tethered to a post,
Talons hidden by plumage.
He nailed her every look,
Drawing her under the mantle of his charm.
Public and chic, he pressed his lips to her cheek,
His skin, creamy as Guinness. She could have drunk him to the lees.
Poison of Socrates. Each sense lit up like a thousand Xmas trees.
A trap door opened, down the hole she dropped,
Hanged and dancing the oldest jig in time.
That night, the moon was chalk.
The girl was goose flesh caught by a ruthless hawk.
Home. Key in the door, grates on a screeching lock.
An indifferent snore, at the drop of a chiffon frock.
Excaliber kiss, exquisite, cruel and bright
How deep the dark, after that chink of light!
Visit to a Brother's Girlfriend
'You're family,' he said 'You're meant to care.'
I wished I was ten Martian miles from there
My brother's current girlfriend's pied à terre.
Umbilicals are heavier than lead.
'Pretend you're human just this once,' he said,
'And not some fridge exhumed from the un-dead.'
Sipping weak tea between grimacing lips.
I pinned my pinioned smile, in a grimace
And listened to her tales of shopping trips.
She spoke about her make-up, likes and habits.
She said a girl should care about her looks.
I told her I was passing fond of rabbits.
I said I'd rather stay between book covers
Hang months and years on fantasy's bright hooks
Than cut my cloth to suit a string of lovers.
She told me every diet that she'd tried.
Served up on shows by anorexic cooks
I said that I preferred my breakfast fried.
When Family, the Shark, decides it should
Devour new genes, you really should be good
For they may marry. Then, they'll go away
And if they don't, they'll blame you if they stay!
Rose stepped into the nightclub. Guinness flowed like the Niger,
Her face was a white urinal. Her mouth, a velvet bow.
Her lover was high on happiness. High as the Eiffel Tower
He was ready to mount the loop-to-loop of desire.
Like leprosy, her kiss. It ate away his composure
Leaving him like a rower with oars like matchsticks
Pulling against a maelstrom.
He stood at the back of the room,
The way she liked men packaged,
Three lemons spun on her fruit machine
He was not over-padded with muscle,
Burst sofa, he was not.
She hove to, a Spanish galleon.
Invited him on board, let down her rigging.
A tug chuffed up, towed him away.
Storm warnings flickering red
'Sorry, I'm spoken for,' he said.
Slippers and coffee, warmth and a paid-for cat
Which disdained to purr or be petted
'Sorry. Things to do. There's a foxy tabby in town
That should be vetted.'
Inspired by a postcard entitled 'Chance Encounter'
Spanner in girse.
Dyeuk's weet flipper skelped on tarry road.
Biro rowin on fleer.
Daud o fluff on the heid o a sheeny postbox.
Like the day that Mrs O'Rourke met Danny Grady in the mids o Killarney
Her on the wye tae the shops,
Him gaun hame fae the gowf,
An the twa o them daunced their socks aff
Till a band playin 'The Forty Shades o Green'.
A Social Eddy
After a painting by Orchardson, 'The Marriage of Convenience'
Cauld dowp. Cauld cheer
Ithers dauncin on the fleer.
Muckle pech. Muckle sigh
Lauchin couples birlin by.
Fit's the time? Watch the clock
Fa's comin? Snochry Jock.
"Are ye dauncin?"
Nae wi you
"Fit wye nae?"
Yer ower foo.
Will she bide, or gyang hame?
Social eddy's dreich, yer lane.
Aa hersel in a neuk
Feint the suitor. Fit a sook!
The Young Achilles Lies Apairt fae his Armour
An ileman hame on leave fae a far kintra,
Sprauchled abeen his bed, a young Achilles.
His gymnast's wechts at reest in their iron stauns
Like seamen dowpit doon in humfy hammocks.
The black curls stuck tae his broo are weet wi swyte
His briest-been heists and draps like Vulcan's bellas.
A kittlin sniffs at the kent scent o his side.
The chaumer hauds him, gled o this brief incam.
His een hae glisked fey tribes fa eat their deid,
On vultures, riggit oot in Saturn's plumes
Fa stap their wyme on Daith's prophetic entrails.
Broth o a loon's bin spiced wi unca ferlies,
Hett continents far snakes raxx slivv'ry fangs.
His daily armour's tummelt ower the fleer
This mither's son, this young invincible,
His ileman's wage buys pouer tae cross the seas
Weemen an warssles, sweet fermented wine.
He needs nae Sibyl's wittrins. Youth is strang.
Julian Petrocles Proctor-Jones
Julian Petrocles Proctor-Jones,
Has 'Spend spend spend' ingrained in his bones.
His cheeks are tanned and his hair, streaked-blond,
Off like a fish in a goldfish pond, he rattles around consumer-hopping
Where the cash-till's jaw is a yob pill-popping.
Between his ears there's a row of stalls
And the light of a thousand shopping malls
He never wears clothes for more than a week
His pants are Gucci, his earrings, chic
His brain is soft but his cred's fantastic
The God who feeds him is store-card plastic.
He's a football star and his balls are high
His one delight is to buy, buy, buy
Julian Petrocles Proctor-Jones has flooded the market with yuppy clones.
They don't read books and they don't need fables
They open their jackets and study the labels!
The Marriage of Blue and Yellow
It was a primal love-match
The Navy-blue officer
Walking out of the ultramarine of the sea
Holding a white balloon marked 'Cloud'
Gave a blue sigh that escaped like a small blue bubble
He spotted her right away
On the yellow sand
The girl in the yellow bikini
Golden hair, cascading down her back.
They went to the fair together
All the golden goldfish
Circled their bowls
As they looped the loop
As they shared their first wet kiss.
Everyone came to the wedding
Poppy, holding a posy of blushing rose
Reverend Black, his bible edged in red.
There was no going back
Now little green children
Dance down watery fields.
Scraps from a Wedding Album, ripped up on a Kitchen Floor
Blue square from a bridsmaid's underskirt.
Two bricks from the left wall of a granite church,
Predominantly grey, shot through with silver.
A third of a cloud with one bird stalled in it
One guest's hat of multi-coloured feathers
Half a bride's bouquet in quick-film petals
The tip of a minister's scrubbed pink earlobe.
A cousin's sliced off laughter
Two nostrils white as icing on the cake.
The half moon of a torn sun.
Two sunbeams knitting ladders by a font.
Aunt Janet's suede gloves drumming on a pew.
Torn Album, transformed into Wedding Confetti
Costing more than an arm and a leg.
The groom is St George. His lips are working up to a bon-mot
See how his armour glitters above the bridal cake!
The bride is a young dragon
Exquisite, with eyes of deepest jade
He will slay her affection slowly
He will turn her fire to ash.
The wedding's a mistake.
Inspired by Pimlico, painted by Walter Richard Sickert
A bride, stepping down off her pedestal
Into the straight and narrow path of matrimony,
Needs seven things to consummate the ritual:
A groom to take to bed,
Some flowers, with which to wed,
A priest, for better or worse,
A ring, for ever and ever,
A guest who is a giver
Two witnesses, richer or poorer
White dress with a virgin veil,
Till death or divorce do part,
A wedding from finish to start
Bible-black's, an affair of the heart.
The wag at the waa like the dubby tail o a stirk,
Wheechs back an forrit a forcey kinno a fung.
Dowie, the hizzie dowped at the rikkin lum
Is pykin threids an thrums in the dreich pit mirk,
The ravelins o a merriege, gweed braid-claith,
Chittered awa in the howf bi her droothy man,
Capernuitie, hyterin skweejee hame.
The sleekit ratten's ettlin tae snap a sup
Fae the steen cauld plate that wytes fur him on the brod.
Inno the hyne awa, her derk een gley
The lowe in the hairth gyangs whizzlin doon tae aisse.
Adult pleisurs. Dolce Vita. Unner the duvet, Lance an Rita.
Twa is company. Three's a crowd. Each silk linin's got a shroud.
Raised divorce costs, mortgage, tax, Lust can rot as weel as raxx.
Echtsome reels are gates on wheels ye open up an birl,
An mony the merriege partnership's begun wi ae quick furl.
Coortship is like a chappit door that some fowk ay keep lockit,
For gin ye eence slip back the lock, it's unca hard tae stoppit!
Some skirl like feels, they birl like eels, an some gyang heelstergowdie,
An mony's the reel that's sterted weel, has endit wi the howdie.
If you had lain in another's arms
And hated them so much you wished them dead
Just lying there, a tree-trunk full of worms
A rotten log, praying a hungry fire would come and eat you,
You would not yearn as some do
For a knight on a shining horse
To gallop into your bed to hug and heat you.
Sing aboot Tifty's Annie, coorseness, plain an bare
Ae quine's assisted passage intae a kirkyaird lair.
Sing aboot Tifty's Annie, yon's nae parlour sang,
Murder, reid in the mools, a lang unbeerit wrang.
Auld Scots lays an ballads, can richt weel express,
The bluid that turns tae ice, on the derk side o the glaiss.
Maist victims ken their killers. Faimly hames breed hairm.
A punch-bag, whiles, is the face o a cooerin wife or bairn.
Ahin closed doors some bully, somewye, losses the heid,
Kickin the hairt an sower, frae their ain flesh an bluid.
Mebbe the soup wis cauld. Mebbe the wine wis late.
Mebbe the clock wis slaw. Wis it a dirty plate?
Sic sma domestic triggers detonate in-hoose hate.
Sing aboot Tifty's Annie... Ay, bit sing it sair.
Sing it as if ye kent her. Sing it as if ye care
That the clarty yird lies black
On a young quine's gowden hair.
Sing it derk as the raven, oorie's a flappin craa
Like the blush o a ripenin wound that blossoms ahin the waa.
Takk her pain.. .and feel it. Makk each note a bruise
Sing her sorras for her. J'accuse. J'accuse. J'accuse.
Sing aboot Tifty's Annie... Ay, bit sing it sair
Sing it fur aa the Annies, feart o the fit on the stair.
Still Life with Knife
Nae fish again, quine!
Yer batter's mingin, yer patter's hingin,
An cut yon veggies oot.
Nor wid I thank ye fur a bit o fruit.
A nice wee greasy pie is main my line.
The national Scottish diet, means fry it.
A swatch o hairt disease, floatin in butter.
Afore ye decry it, try it!
Chips wi a sauce-spurt. Some fowk dee fur't!
The sun will rise each morning, I believe
It is the only certainty I know
And in the cool of evening it will leave.
The hours are short; there is no time to grieve
Some minutes go so fast and others, slow
There is no turning back. There's no reprieve.
The moon is constant. It will not deceive
The stars above, the safe brown earth below.
What's fixed and whole has no need to achieve.
Our human hopes are mainly make-believe
Like paper boats the wind blows to and fro
Like cheap-jack baubles any jay may thieve
There is more pain on earth than you'd conceive
Of. Step aside and let it come and go
Like the free air that you unthinking breath.
There is no turning back, there's no reprieve
This is the only certainty I know
That with the evening the great sun will leave
That after Autumn's apples, comes the snow.
Parkin Lot Nummer 44: Advocates Car Park
Parkin Lot nummer 44:
Doon the steps fae the Signet Library
Weet blaik tarmac, back o the door
Waddlit ower bi cooshies
Shitten on bi scurries
Wattered bi flurries
Parkin Lot nummer 44
Blaik as Bible Brods
A bield fur boosers
Yowled ower bi Toms an tounsers
Here lieth the mortal beens
O John Knox RIP
The VIP o mony's a history lesson
In Scottish skweels on mochie efterneens.
Parkin Lot nummer 44,
In life yer tenant
Niver brichtent the warld
Like a flicht o cockatoos
Explodin ooto a pink flamingo loch
The dreich rain piddles doon
Cairryin roon his crotch
The bree o Embro toun.
The claik o Hindi
Rattles abeen his heid.
John Knox, fa wis alive,
Bit noo is deid.
From Ecclesiastes 3
A time fur aa aneth the sun
The Heivens decreed it sae:
A time tae live, a time tae dee
Fur Man's but winnlestrae.
A time tae plant an seed the grun
Ahin the cuttin ploo
A time tae gaither in the crap
A time tae bend an boo
A time tae kill, a time tae heal
Tae merk an bigg a foun
A time tae greet, a time tae lauch
Afore Daith dings ye doon
A time tae grieve, a time tae daunce;
A time tae gaither steens,
A time tae lue, tae turn awa
A time tae follae dreams
A time tae lose, a time tae fin;
A time tae stert anew;
A time fur soun, a time fur quate
A time fur fause or true.
A time tae spikk, a time tae rend
A time fur bomb an gun
A time o peace, a time tae mend
Fur aa aneth the sun.
Oh winnlestrae's mortality
Like gibbet cloots that blaw
The corbie watches frae the dyke
In time, he swallas aa.
Salute tae Toronto
for the late Charles Middleton Ritchie, Oshawa, Ontario
Three thoosan mile frae derk Lochnagar,
Rises Toronto hyne ower the haar,
Skyscrapers towerin, bricht as the star
Steered the fill boaties frae Scotia.
Grey the Atlantic, wintry its wave,
Wirk is the prize the emigrants crave,
Wide is the ocean, cauld as the grave
Thochts that are beeriet in Scotia.
Buffalo, beaver wolf on the Ben,
These are the neebors immigrants ken,
Cedar an maple, dapplin the fen,
Far frae the laricks o Scotia.
Gloamin by Huron, brings the black bear,
Ebon as midnicht, fierce frae its lair,
Dae the lost clan, the kin that bide there
Mynd on the muirlans o Scotia?
Dowie its keenin the dirge o the whale,
Swift rins the boat wi Hope in its sail,
Hairtbrak o leavins waur nor the gale,
Blawin the flooers frae Scotia.
Bonnie the linn that faas wi a sang,
Bonnie the harebell, dauncin sae thrang,
Wages are scarce, sae mony maun gyang,
Far fur a livin frae Scotia.
Seed frae the Heilans, oceans awa,
Tho lochans freeze an lilies doonfa,
Memories are green, we mynd on ye aa,
Bluid in yer veins o Auld Scotia.
Three thoosan miles frae derk Lochnagar,
Rises Toronto hyne ower the haar,
Shoeshine on sidewauk, Mohawk in bar,
Warm is their welcome tae Scotia!
For Tam & Beldie Fraser, Westlodge, Glenmuick, Ballater
My kinsman's Glenmuick neebor deed yestreen
An auncient craitur, trauchelt an clean deen
She bedd across the wye...her ain front door
A puckle helpers rinnin back an fore
They need a haun, fin auld age soors the bluid
Tho she wis spared fey tribbles o the heid
She pyed her bills, wis niver on the scraun
A widda-wummin, liked the antrin dram
Her hats were braw. Her smiles like butter, spreid.
For years she wis their neebor. Noo, she's deid.
They say the grandson's takkin it real ill
She meant a hantle mair nur jist The Will
Tae him, puir vratch. He aften eesed tae bide
Wi granny at her hoose. A place tae hide
Fae yon gran skweel fa's credo wis Excel
Wi granny, he wis safe tae be himsel.
My brither's cousin's neebor deed yestreen
They didna veesit. She wis eence a Queen
Ye dinna lowp the dyke o circumstance
An yet she brocht a thochtie o Romance
Intae Glen Muick, for she wis aince a belle
The Rose o Glamis, pued for a King's lapel
Jean Sim, a clippie, dressed in Navy-blue,
Shouldered her punch as if it was a gun.
Her netted hair caught tightly in a bun.
She'd lift her pocket flap, tap out a fag,
Take a long drag, quick-sip a mug of tea.
Never missed the ashtray,
Snibbed her smoke, was thrifty
Always looked the other side of fifty.
One year she took her leave of Christmas cheer
Trussed in a belted coat with red beret
And matching scarf and gloves from Aunty Joan
Zipped up her fur lined boats (the frost cut to the bone)
Left by the back door, cutting across the fields
Finding the note too late, her father sought her
A railway worker, shouting his daughter's
Name through snow that dropped from high
From stars unloading blizzards in the sky.
Sharp frost that held the furrows in a vice
Warned that minds too, can chill and turn to ice.
Storm was brewing darkly over the woods
The narrow burn was raging,
Thinking itself a torrent, thinking itself a Tiber
Pretentious, piddling, puddle, three feet deep,
Where Jean stepped in and laid her down to sleep.
For weeks she stalked my dreams, hands placed on lap
Her clippie's uniform, immaculate
The raging burn roaring across her face
Unreachable by censure or disgrace.
Her father's knuckles wrang his tweed cap raw.
One summer the smiling river pulled me down
And played with me, as if I'd been a toy
No kindly tree'd stretch down its boughs to save.
Forget-me-nots watched blankly from the waves.
I could have been a stone thrown in by boys.
Till, struggling, I broke free.
I love to watch the river, find it haunting
Its moods and sudden eddies so enchanting
I dabble with it, toe-dip, do not enter.
I am no Jean, could never go dead centre.
The Watcher in the Grass
Some say that Death is old,
With hollow cheeks, and grey,
And that his touch so cold
Can wither in a day.
But I say Death is young,
He's lithe and full of grace
He turns Him round and laughs
To see Time in my face
In frailties I increase
So strong and tall grows He
The watcher in the grass
Of my mortality.
The Send-Aff: St. Moluag's Kirk, Tarland
For Isabella Green, née Middleton, born Tarland 1902, died Aboyne 2001
The snaa faas saftly ower the kirk,
Cromar, Kinaldie, Migvie
The mavis chitters on the birk
North Gellan, Tomnaverie
The Tarlan burn rins bauld an black
Glendeskry, Blelack, Drummy
Storm rings the sun at Morven's back
The yawnin grave is deep an weet
Coull, Melgum, Dauch, the Knockie
The cords drap doon. Fowk shakk tae see't
Corse, Corachree an Ordie.
Shelt, astronaut, new-plottit stars
The Clash, Millheid an Ruthven
Frae cradle sang ben warld wars
Barehillock an Newbiggin
A godly an a hamely life
Crossfauld an Balnagowan
Frae toddlin bairn tae canty wife
Sweetbriar's bonnie rowan.
Nae spider web o flimsy threid, her reets ran through the Howe
As lang's the skirts o Pressendye far the white snawdraps grow
Ay, Belle wis o ma faither's bluid, an o ma faither's line
An fine she wis, and kind she wis, as mellow hinney-wine.
Ye ken foo weel a body's liked bi mourners cam tae pray
For Belle, fa niver judged a frien, the pews stude full, the day.
Baldy heids like golf baas wytin the final putter.
In't it faist foo years skyte doon the gutter?
Daith isnae blate tae clear awa a generation's clutter!
Words were bubbles,
Wobbling from two pink salmon lips.
Her nose was in everyone else's flowers.
Her own enclosure was a Kalahari.
At night her thoughts were cockroaches
Spilling out of a corner of her mind
In church, she was a stained glass, tweedy angel.
The scratchy, vinyl record of her days
Went round and round in ever-deepening grooves.
One day, Death stopped her solitary fox trot,
Lifted the hand of the needle
Placed it back in its cradle,
Threw the switch.
I think she was glad of the silence.
for my father, Charles Middleton (b. Aboyne 1907, d. Aberdeen 1988)
The phone was a meat hook. I hung from the cold receiver.
Heavy news dripped grief in my cupped ear.
Five hours cold in his bed, my father lay tight-lipped.
The morning paper sat in its untouched folds.
Coals on the fire had crumbled into rust.
The bed linen beneath him was unstained.
Wood beetles gnawed the floorboards into dust.
Three suits, four ties, eight shoes
Whose musty mouths gaped wide
Black holes of silence.
Half moons beneath his nails
Began their dark eclipse.
It was too cold for keening.
His pillow, smelt of leather, sweat and age
I held it close as skin, a final gleaning.
Charles Middleton Ritchie (b. Ballater 1929, d. Oshawa, Ontario 2000).
As a boy he was partly raised by an aunt in a farm in Glen Muick.
Aucholzie, Aultonrea, Glen Muick, the Spital,
Names that pad through my mind like mountain hares
Leaving tiny traces in their tracks.
An old woman carries a chipped pail to the hens
A ram bleats at a gate
Down a thin wire
Helen tells Morag
Black Andy is three days drunk.
Aucholzie, Aultonrea, Glen Muick, the Spital,
Here the brother grew that they kept from me
All the village kept that secret well.
Oshawa, Ontario, Toronto,
Crossing an ocean of lies
After full five decades
He flew back,
A late swallow,
Took me under his wing
And called me sister.
Two summers on,
He moved into the grave.
Brahms an Liszt
in memoriam, Ian Alexander Middleton, b. Aberdeen 1940, d. Brazil 1999
Soup's on the table. Broth again.
Always on a Monday, after the Sunday roast.
You're not there to eat it.
Look at the rose stems!
Sun looks through the window.
You're not there to greet it
Grandmother sits by the fireside, swivels her head like an owl.
Over each aged eye, an eyelid droops like a cowl.
She's darning father's sock, dressed in Victorian black
Permanent fixture, family almanac.
Father's glasses have slipped
Right to the end of his nose
Time's ground him like a quern
All he can do is doze.
Mother is dusting her glittery bits and pieces
Shiny's the Heavenly Host.
Brother, your space is bare
I have asked each family ghost
Where you went, dead leaf
Blown only God knows where.
Mother is saying you had a musician's soul.
Maybe it swallowed you whole?
All I find in your room's a tune by Liszt
And a Chopin concerto dancing along the lobby.
All your remains in my mind are bones of tunes
A great stone pyramid melted back to dunes.
When they lowered your chords
They wiped your memory clean
Notes to notes, Bartok to Chopin, Brahms to Liszt
Dropped off the family tree, you simply ceased to exist
Outside of a Bach cantata. A great recital, missed.
Myndin on Granda
Owersett o a poem screived by Tone Pavcek (1928)
The stoor, noo, differs neen.
We cam back cheenged,
Turn up like towrist bodies,
An watch the barley swey
Throw careless een.
Tell me, auld bodach,
Granfaither, heich as Truth,
Far are yer shelts?
An far's yer youth?
Yer marts, yer loon,
Yer neebors an yer wife,
Fecund's the yird sae broon?
The clock let faa its wechts,
Au booed its heid.
Weirin yer fairmer's beets,
Yer muckle bunnet,
Ye sclimm the knowe aleen,
Quittin the kirkyaird,
Sclim the braes o hame,
Teet at the sun,
Luik langsome ower the glen.
The barley's ripe,
Ye watch, an ye are blythe.
Aroon ye on the knowe,
Yer friens resume their lives,
Claik, noo the craps are ripe,
O prices, taxes, wives,
O hairsts an wine,
An whyles, o yer deid laddie.
Yer bluid revives.
The barn trimmies wi pleisur,
Soun o the daunce. This meisur
Gars the verra corn
Daunce tae the beat,
O yer deid feet,
O yer deid feet,
O yer deid feet.
This poem is written in the form of a kyrielle
The evening paper's by the chair,
Grey rain runs down the window's face,
A single plate drips in the sink,
The clock is ticking in its case.
The turgid sea turns to the land,
The breathless breakers shoreward race,
Sated, it ebbs and spurns the strand,
The clock is ticking in its case.
The moon's wax seal in every pool
Lights candles in the forest's space,
Life's flickering film reels from its spool
The clock is ticking in its case.
The train rocks in its iron groove,
The spider pleats its noose of lace,
Sandpaper handshakes move, remove,
The clock is ticking in its case.
A falcon climbs, a falcon falls,
Bird-claw, mouse-fur, the ancient chase,
Low in the earth the grave-worm calls,
The clock is ticking in its case.
Through stands of wheat, winds sheer and shift.
The scythe-man keeps a steady pace,
Tall grain and straw are slashed apart,
The clock is ticking in its case.
The Moon Speaks
for the late Dr. J.D. Gomersall, psychotherapist and friend
I sometimes wish the earthling had not come.
When he first landed, I did not like him at all.
He reassured me he only wished to explore
With the minimum of disturbance.
Then you see, I began to grow accustomed
To his presence.
Until I felt his foot on my cracked surface
I had not realized my limits nor my vastness
I had not known what sharing was about.
Even in silence, I felt his cupped breathing
Gently fluttering in one of my many craters
I learned to withdraw my rays to let him rest.
But he should have said... it was cruel, cruel, not to
That earthlings wither quickly, a moment's warmth.
Now I endure, as I have always endured
Staring into the eyes of the terrible stars
Watching the earth for signs of a second coming.
The Massacre of the Innocents
(Anytown, Anywar, Anywhere)
Half a pound of tuppeny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
All the lambs skipped out to play,
They fell in with Evil
There came a war to do them harm,
To break the circle of childhood's charm,
Prejudice is a cunning viper,
Into the grave with the cruel Pied Piper.
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water,
Daisy chain with scarlet stain
And laughter silenced by slaughter.
Border river, where are your paddlers,
Splashing merry and wee and gay?
Border farmland where are your farmers
Gathering sheaves of corn today?
Bloody streets and bomb-battered cities,
Where will lost generations go?
Do they dance on ladders of blood
Into the clouds from the wars below?
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Cite this Document
Winnlestrae. 2023. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved September 2023, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=507.
"Winnlestrae." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2023. Web. September 2023. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=507.
The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Winnlestrae," accessed September 2023, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=507.
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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2023. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk.