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
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.
Winter is essential to the process.
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
the fibre heart opening to that clear flow.
Winter gone and the ground is laid
with a question: what
flows into your hands now?
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.
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
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”.
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
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,
there will be no return.
Katie Hale katie's website
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.
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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