Patricia Ace’s pamphlet First Blood was published by HappenStance Press in 2006. She has a Masters, with distinction, from Glasgow University’s Creative Writing programme. Poems have appeared in The Shop, The Rialto, Gutter, Poetry News and the North, amongst others. She has been placed and won prizes in many national poetry competitions including those run by Mslexia and Aesthetica magazines. Her poem ‘Papa Joe’ won the Plough Poetry Prize in 2010 and her portrait was featured in photographer Chris Park’s exhibition, Dualism: Portraits & Poems in 2011. Her first full collection, Fabulous Beast, was published by Freight Books in March 2013.
Patricia lives in Crieff with her partner and daughter where she teaches yoga in schools and the community.
There are three strands, or themes, running through Fabulous Beast, expressed in poems about family life and domesticity, poems about the natural world and poems of a more mystical / mythical nature. Over the years I've written a lot about my family, especially my daughters, so here's a poem inspired by my youngest to start off with:
We haven’t seen her since Christmas Day.
When she used to be everywhere –
sprawled in the living room watching TV,
rooting for snacks in the kitchen units,
hogging the PC in the study –
now she’s confined to her room
like a convalescent, a Victorian child with some
dire disease; quarantined by technology.
From behind the door of fitties –
shirtless teens découpaged from magazines,
chiselled chests, waxed pecs, bleached teeth –
come blasts of repetitive pop,
the light hail of nails bouncing across keys.
Bedtime has lapsed by an hour.
Suddenly there’s a distant boyfriend,
a friend of a friend found on Facebook.
I knock first and enter,
rounding up cereal bowls, sticky mugs,
scooping water bottles out from under the bed
where they drift with an absence of messages.
She lies propped against pillows,
wreathed in the blue of the screen.
I lean in to switch her off, my spectral girl,
alien creature, plunging the room into darkness.
There's also a short sequence in the book about old age, written around the time of my father's death in 2010. Here's a poem from that sequence:
Truth in Old Age
An hour ago,
after afternoon visiting,
the nurse took us aside,
told us if his kidneys
gave up, there wasn’t
much more they could do
except Make him comfortable.
In an hour I will pare
a satsuma into segments
squeeze their juice
onto his tongue.
He will ask
what’s going on in the world?
and I’ll read to him
from the paper,
some silly story
about prize-winning marrows.
I will stroke his ochre arms,
his stubbled cheek,
hoping that it’s enough.
He will look forward to
seeing us in the morning.
He will say that he’s tired
and will soon be asleep.
In two hours everyone
who loves him will phone:
his son-in-law in Crieff,
his sister in South Wales,
his sister-in-law as she boards
the bus in Aberdeen, his son
booking flights from America.
In three hours I will sip
at hot, sweet tea
under fluorescent light
while strangers are kindly
but not kind enough.
I will bundle his things
into yellow plastic bags,
carry his glasses in my pocket.
There are several poems in the book which celebrate Scottish places that have become dear to me, especially those found around Crieff in rural Perthshire where I am lucky enough to live. This poem is based on a real experience of a walk up behind Fowlis Wester:
Mating frogs at Loch Meallbrodden
On a sunny bank we found them;
hundreds of frogs, coaxed by warmth
from their winter homes,
croaking and basking in singles,
swimming piggy-backed in couples;
the reedy shallows a rolling boil
where they broke the surface for air.
Then groups of eight or nine together,
clumped in khaki knots,
one bloated female bearing several males
along her spotted back,
their bellies pale as the skin of a wrist.
From the wooden jetty we watched,
holding hands, frogs joining any other
that came in range, their frenzy so fierce
we turned and dropped our gaze and clasp,
watching our feet as we took up the path.
Walking by the hidden loch
that first warm day of sun, wasps clung
to nodding heads of bulbs,
hovered over beads of heather.
We passed the shoreline boathouse
slumping like a punctured lung,
crushed by months of snow and ice.
By the water’s edge we squatted,
inspecting jellied dots abandoned there,
a thousand single eyes unblinking,
quivering in the blazing sun.
This final poem falls into the mystical /mythical category and really came from seeing circus lions contained in their tiny travelling trailer while on holiday in Portugal and wanting desperately to set them free, something I was only able to achieve here in my imagination!
Lions of Guia
I passed them each dawn on my way to buy bread,
the two circus lions pacing in tandem, their match-head
tails ticking the bars of their trailer, stick in a wheel.
I watched them fight over the one patch of shade,
brought them fish heads from the docks and saw
my shocked face mirrored in the beryls of their eyes.
I heard the tamer was an egomaniac drunk,
so I slipped out at night, slid the clasp from my hair
and shook like a virgin as the padlock sprung free.
I stroked their square heads, their flat noses,
lost my fingers in the shag of their manes.
Blunt tongues licked the salt from my arms.
I lay my spine against the heat of one's torso,
wore him all night like the coat of a chieftain,
slept long in the tang of his ferrous breath.
I woke before dawn to the chanting of slave songs,
coming like prayers from their cavernous mouths,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from home.
I led them on silver leashes through the suburbs,
watched them squat on the lawns of the bourgeoisie,
unleashed them to stalk rabbits in white fields of wheat.