All poems on this page are the copyright © of Judith Taylor
Judith Taylor comes from Perthshire and is based in Aberdeen. She studied at St Andrews, Oxford and Sheffield Universities and now works in IT.
Her poetry has been widely published in magazines, including Poetry Scotland, Northwords Now, Angle and The Rialto, and she is the author of two pamphlet collections - Earthlight (Koo Press, 2006) and Local Colour (Calder Wood Press, 2010). Her poem "The Lapland Woman and the Finland Woman", which first appeared in Northwords Now, was chosen as one of the Scottish Poetry Library's Best Scottish Poems of 2014.
Author page at Calder Wood Press: http://www.zen39641.zen.co.uk/cwp/taylor.htm
Best Scottish Poems of 2014 http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/best-scottish-poems/best-scottish-poems-2014
Earthlight is no longer in print but Local Colour can be ordered from Calder Wood Press at the link above. It is themed around the ghost stories for which the author has a sceptical love, and especially the Green Ladies and their ilk who are such a feature of Scottish folklore.
"All told, Scotland has 22 Green Ladies and 20 White; also 12 Grey, 2 Blue, 2 Black, 1 Pink and 1 Red-haired. Just under a third (32%) haunt paying tourist attractions and a further 28% haunt hotels, golf clubs and other manifestations of the hospitality industry… Information and statistics drawn from various sources, including my Granny, the Sunday Post, and the Internet: take with salt accordingly."
The Old Country
Like almost every visitor from the New World
she was amazed a house could be this old
and just be lived in, far less have paying guests;
that people could merely use
rooms whose walls were thick enough to stand siege
(though they hadn’t been required to)
and whose ancient, tremulous windows
kept the weak local light at bay
but admitted every chill of air.
She left her foolish sister
parked in the Drawing Room, saying This is Gracious Living!
– as if it was part of their inheritance here,
as if Gran and Granda
hadn’t had to make away from this cold place
in steerage –
and she walked the lower corridor
from the kitchens to the back stair.
Let Nell go on with her nonsense.
Let her say, A house as old as this
is bound to have a ghost.
And let their host smirk and invent her a Grey Lady.
It was below, here
if anywhere, you would find the ancestral spirits.
On the stair worn to hazardous
by their lives of fetching and carrying.
At the laundry door, where the flagstones
exhaled the soap laid down for generations.
As she paused there, suddenly
she could see Gran: her back bent at the ironing;
her red, unladylike hands.
first published in Local Colour (Calder Wood Press 2010)
as far away as a mountain
with a mountain’s way of
never growing bigger or seeming nearer
till all of a sudden you’re there.
Then, you remember
what you've failed to carry
– map, mint cake, waterproofs –
but it’s too late now to fetch them
and return, unless
another day. And would you
then? You hesitate
while the sun goes in and out of the passing clouds
and at last you set your foot to the track
others have made before you.
will you go?
Will you come down again
to tell your tale in the lowlands?
Will the expert rescuers find you – maybe
too late – and shake their heads
at your folly?
All you can think about for now, is
you’ll ascend again
on a striding edge, that bright wind in your hair.
This was the last thing you expected
one more mountain
but it’s come to you.
You don’t turn it away.
(Brown Street School, Dundee, 1909)
Ye're richt auld thirty, or mebbe
Paw says ye micht as weel be a teacher
if ye cannae get a husband
an Maw says, aye, an for aa the guid
a husband ivver did a wumman,
And Peter Murdoch, he says
ye got the jile
for punchin the Prime Minister on the nose
but I dinnae believe him. He tells awfy lies
an he hates you
cause ye punnied him for fechtin
says he cannae wait tae get oot the skail.
He's gaun tae be a bobby, like his uncle Joe
an Paw says noo I'm educatit
I could be a parlourmaid.
Nae need tae go tae the mills like Maw
but Maw says naw the mills are better money.
They've fed this femily.
An ye're no at the beck an call o some fantoosh mistress
an when I says, aw but
I want tae be a teacher like Miss Clunas
Maw says that wid be an investment fur the future
an Paw says see thae bluidy suffragettes
an thir bad influence?
Ower ma deid body
an Maw says
dinnae tempt me.
written as part of "Womens Lives, Womens Voices" at Dundee Womens Festival 2014
He keeps his paperwork resolutely
up-to-date: works on some nights
till it’s finished. For it’s so easy
to lose your grip on the details
then to be asked to account for something
and have to scrabble for it. None of that
in his department. Everything’s logged:
arrivals, assets, relevant correspondence
and disposals, all
clearly filed. He can lay his hand
on anything you might want to know, in a second.
And he flatters himself
the smooth way the process runs out there
reflects the orderly way it’s documented.
That’s his contribution.
Calm and order
spreading outwards from his filing-room
No, that’s too grand:
but like a benign contagion, maybe, making better
the world. He thinks himself
- will go to his grave
thinking himself - a cog, yes
but a vital one in the great machine.
He will go to his grave
thinking he was a good man
and all he did was his duty.
first published in Gutter 10, 2013
I said, you can always tell when there are dolphins off the harbour
by the boatload of marine biologists tailing them.
I meant the visitors not to hope too much that they would see them. I expect
luck of that kind to be rare now
like the small tortoiseshell butterflies,
the sparrows. As I said it though, we saw a fin: stopped the car.
There were three - two and a young one, maybe – turning lazily, breaching
through the grey light on the water by the coastguard station.
Cormorants overflew them;
common terns came spearing down on sandeels by the near shore;
the sun went into a cloud behind the city. We watched a long time.
It surprised me how relieved I was to see them. Lucky again, this once
and not a boat of biologists in sight. Only a couple of supply-ships
going out to rigs; another coming in.
written for the After Livingstone installation at StAnza 2013