Brian Holton

 

For Ma Faither

i.m. C.S. Holton

 

 

the back-en turnt grey

the colourt wuids wis wae an wan

ye’d taen the auld auld road, man

an left the rosie leaf ahint

 

the spring wis late o comin

nae heat, nae graith wis gien ti the hill

an aa the wells o christentie cudna slocken

the drouth at cam an checkt oor season then

 

nae cauldrife bed for you, man, reishlt wi the wund

ye tuik the simmer’s lang white road

whaur lichtsome hills is daft wi sang

an siller watter rummles doun the linn

 

the herd hed come ti lead ye in

to set ye on yir auld white road

the birselt hill abune ye, the sweit upon yir brou

rinnin doun the tropic road yir lane

 

A mind ye yet, ye chairmer, an mercy me

in ither airts oo’ll aiblins meet, afore lang gae -

a gairden mebbes, whaur ye’ll turn an fauld uis,

ma weill-luvit an ma absent dear

 

 

ma gowd wis turnt ti bress then

an aa ma joys wis turn ti leid

in the birselt wearie days o hairst-en

ye tuik the bitter road, the auld white road, an ran

 

the back-en wis grey as stane, man,

the colourt wuids wis pale an wan

ye tuik the auld auld road man

an aa yir warkin days wis dune

 

 

Sheila Templeton

 

Scrievin her Great-Grunnie

 

Fit can I tell ye aboot this bairn

– her cauf-grun sae far awa fae aathin

we kent? She'll niver nip a sly goose-gog

or yer faavrit gowden hinnie-blobs

that bordered the waakie throu the gairden;

niver tie green sashes o girse roon silken petals

Grunnie, look! I've made dauncin leddies

skirts o cramasie, green pyntit feet!

She'll niver rub sweet fedders o southernwood

atween her finggers efter a rain dookin,

niver see Granda lauchin at the blin-drift o snaw,

crawin his gairden noo as trig as ony neebours,

niver wunner faar the silk-worms were hidin

in the shady brinches o the mulberry tree

drappin its dairk berries ower the green;

niver loup the dyke on Prince, the big Clydesdale

dreamin oot his days in the girsie bit oot-by

niver get raged for that – an beddit in daylicht.

She'll niver haud a hanfae o that grun

feelin its wecht, its bonnie dairk wecht

jibblin ower, growthie, hert-bindin.

But fit I can tell ye is that this bairn

stans tall, hus a heid lik a yalla-yaldie

a bonnie shape, lik aa her tribe,

een as blae as the north, lik yer ain.

An she's jaloused this simmer day

that watter is a livin thing, the gairden-hose

is a yalla-green snake that poors oot

magic – makkin dubs in her sand box

– that noo she's sklaikin weet sandy runes

oan the sides o the fence, oan her play-hoose

wi a blithesome keckle I've heard afore...

Yersel, hans yirdit, squattin doon

unner the roddin tree at the corner,

scrattin up sandy airth tae scour

the pitted brass o yer jeely-pan,

a hanfae o docken leaves for a rag,

lauchin – jist – lauchin.

 

 

Judith Taylor

 

Washi

 

Winter is essential to the process.

The breaking-down

slows in the cold neutrality of the water

the low light

and zero growth.

 

Everything falls away

from around the long strands

unbroken by their gradual emergence

into snowmelt

the fibre heart opening to that clear flow.

 

Winter gone and the ground is laid

before you

with a question: what

flows into your hands now?

What colouring

 

from the new around you what word

what shape will you impress upon

this clear field

empty as snow

this clean sheet woven

for you in winter?

 

 

 

C. M. Buckland

 

How the partner of a dead sculptor still conceives her new work

 

When she died, I realised there was no reason

why her work should not live on.

 

She had hundreds of designs on file

waiting to be brought to life.

 

I’m no artist, chiseller, but I can

push a button on a 3-D printer

 

and watch her thinking materialise.

Gear, she always called her makings, stuff

 

that had a purpose, some I couldn’t figure out

just looked good, looked right

 

some, she’d print and watch in real time

being extruded from a plastic uterus

 

other times she’d carve them, start with

a block of foam, tell the digi- device how

 

to cut it down to size, pull her hiding vision

out from inside — it was always there,

 

seemed obvious once it was done. Why

couldn’t I have seen it all along?

 

Months have passed and I am filling all

the gaps she’s left behind with things

 

that she’d held in her head: the leftfield,

abstract, deadly seriously, fun -

 

she lives on through these things she drew

on the computer and gave birth to:

 

some I sit on, play with, scream at

some I climb on, hide in, wear -

 

she’s there in every angle, every swerving

plain, her attitude, the nerve she held until

 

the end and I will fill this room with every

sketched out thought she ever had, yes I will

 

make them all until I cannot move.

 

 

Kathleen Jones

 

Lewy Bodies

 

In his sleep he says,

“You should do something

with your life

while you still have one.”

 

He is clearly arguing;

his limbs jerk and twist.

 

 

Lately his dreams have become vocal

in the dark space

between days and days increasingly

uncharted.

 

She lies beside him,

hoping he might say her name

wondering what roads his feet

are walking on.

 

 

He says, “I see you standing

by the door”.

 

Leaving?

 

Or arriving?

 

She doesn’t know. She

lies beside him, listening

to the alpha/beta rhythms of his breath.

 

Recently, the nights

have begun to close in; the walls

coming loose from their joists and looming

towards her.

 

Years ago – when they had first, joking, shared

their dream journeys over breakfast,

exploring the maps of myth across the cornflakes –

she had not imagined this:

 

herself – solitary in the dreamless void of the exhausted;

himself – a traveller on an unmapped journey from which,

soon,

 

there will be no return.

 

 

Katie Hale katie's website

 

Stick

 

Only a dog really understands it:

how it is a prize; how, in fetching it,

you claim it as your own, and so

it must be protected; how it is brown

or grey, and tastes of dead moss;

how it will snap under heavy feet;

how it is not a weapon, and serves

no purpose but to be chased

and smelled in all its stick-ness;

how it is not, in fact, a stick,

but a city, built of tight green shoots

that can be picked off and planted;

how it will not bear fruit, though it

remembers the bearing of fruit;

how once it was part of something

greater, but is no less for being broken;

how it carries us back to the quiet

of deep forests where we began.

 

 

 

Gerda Stevenson

 

Margaret Tait’s ‘Portrait of Ga’

 

(Margaret Tait, 1918 - 1999, Orkney, film maker, poet and doctor;

“Ga” - the family name for grandmother.)

 

“Mother - I need to get you in the can,” I say,

your cheekbones cutting the light, hair flying loose

from its pins, like stray wool on barbed wire.

I know already what the sound track will be:

a smoky flute breathing that ghost of a march

you’re conducting right now with a fag-end.

 

Your wry smile gives me the green light –

the mouth’s hallmark curve, your own mother in it –

a glimmer of my Ga, and her mother – your Ga –

Viking quines, their lineage folding back through time

beyond the rainbow on today’s horizon,

invisible women in my wide-angle frame,

as you step away up the road’s incline;

and yet - there they are, in the jaunt of you,

that quiet defiance, happed in classic tweed,

breaking loose from buttons in a careless dance.

 

Cut to close-up: a shadowed interior - my lens drinks

the silver of your window-lit hair, then tilts

down the neck’s white flow, rests

on the brae of your shoulder, blue linen pleats

tailored with grace, like the years you’ve gathered.

There’s so much to see and hear in you - so many layers,

like the constantly shifting shells at Bay of Skaill;

a gurgling burn of word-play in your eyes,

on your tongue – your own kennings coined

for grandbairns’ delight; and always the skylark

and wind in your hearing, even between four walls.

 

Closer still: your thumbs and fingers

unveil a boiled sweet; slow pincer-moves

left and right, right and left, (life here

has shown you ambrosia moments won’t

be hurried), till the cellophane bud blooms,

and you slip its nectar between your teeth.

 

Wide shot - exterior: leaning into your spade,

you turn the earth; garden blossoms wag

in the breeze; the girl in you obliges

by giving me a birl, then you settle into a sunlit book;

ritual and rhythm in all your days as they blow

through each season, drawing to a close

on this Northern rim of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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