This piece is from my 1999 collection, Temples fae Creels (Kettillionia). Another piece The Pool is on the Poetry Map of Scotland set up by the Scottish Poetry Library-link below.
Fife’s autumnal skin-leopard
Has breathed an raxed
Its lang spine.
The fields o cut stubble
Pierce cauld December air,
Heuch, wuid, lost dubs
Are threatened by
Neist tae it
A’m ane o a few
Warm in oor metal boxes
Pechin tae beat the bankers’ maws-
Lickin wet tarmac
Licht gies transient shimmers,
Preein the muckle constants.
Raxed-stretched, heuch-cliff/hillside, dubs-puddles, souchin-breathing, neist-next, pechin-working hard/breathing, pree-sample, muckle-big.
Welcomes the living
To the land where wolf and bear once roamed
Lands where greed, famine and the dirk
Drew blood from Lowlander and Highlander alike
Amidst these granite and Dalradian time lords
Edging into cloud as the ephemeral on tyres burst into their lair
Driving I wonder
Somewhere do the Gaelic souls in astral ceilidhs
Wait, consider in Hellenic song
Will we fare better soon?
But that thought is human
It is as tiny as the smallest cloud particle
And their time is measured in thousands of centuries
Not the insignificant that would see a million
Preludes written, a Nile long line of Paradise Losts.
This is a piece I did for a very important initiative (‘Character Scotland’) and one that mirrors developments elsewhere in the world. I hope the organisation continues on a permanent basis and impacts widely on Scottish society.
Again at the makiwara:
Strike post, inanimate scholar of the biped
Thinking on a warm May night
Release hip, gain that momentum that
Release all to from you to it..
Not muscles or violence release more
More is always from within
Given, taken mellifluously as soft as a wren’s call
Then the scholar is impressed
Calls out some sort of approval.
World’s End Pub, Royal Mile, Edinburgh.
It’s been prettified
Raw rock from Edinburgh’s past gnarled
And chipped to offset the gaudy, uniform leather-
Opposite is The World’s End pub;
You were debating imagery then the Gulf War
That was when I was here last and I saw you last.
An undergraduate when I read your introduction to
Great Expectations-held in its Penguin casing
Bitter comments over malt, I think, now
In Fife-everywhere (nae Morningside) how
Dickensian food banks grow like a shine on Eton
I drink up and heid for the book launch.
Angus Calder, Historian, Critic, Poet 5.02.42-5.06.08
Big Hole, Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa.
The plastic bags that flag in the wind remind me of the township. But that was long ago and this is Fife and the rare Scotland-winning-the World Cup like phenomenon: a sunny Bank Holiday is underway.
The ugly plot next to the monster size signs for a new catalogue shop is where they desperately protest life. It is like the shredded flesh in white and red ribbons that would be wound round the South African township barbed wire.
The devil’s tongue metal fence tops were kept clean. They marked the perimeter of the houses-Mandela houses and adapted shacks too. As clean as the shoes where the red Martian dirt would be banished for a special night in the shabeen.
I am going into the Dunfermline garden centre this Bank Holiday and these memories leak in. First the thrashing end life of our detritus from both continents then the hospital here.
Driving into town the hospital comes into view. The red Lego-like pile sits to the right of the town on the hill. Denuded of the Accident and Emergency services its slow neglect was mirrored in the pale atmosphere when I visited Jean. The unsung and heavy work of the nurses looking after her as the cancer finally made an end was at odds with the building.
So why think of that and sitting in close in Oma’s front room in Northern Cape, South Africa?
It was an ANC group in Oma’s front room. They spoke and drank tea and some wore headdresses that spoke of the joy in a country where five official languages meant watching the soaps was a Pandora’s Box of delights.
The ladies were all were survivors of cancer or had it. The Front Room was usually left alone. The kitchen and Sitting Room was where all the action was. I had finished at the school-sharing the love of learning (not paper work) we were sharing from east and central Scotland. We were a battalion of five Scottish teachers.
I was back from school and had nipped to see what was happening. The biscuits on the table also promised a sugar feast as the heat had risen (for a pale Fifer anyway) in the afternoon and had made for a hot walk back to the house.
I got some tea and said hello to Oma. She spoke in Afrikaans and I knew it meant come sit and had enough love in it to smooth down some of the Titanic-sized wrinkles on her face.
I sit down next to Angana. She introduced herself and immediately asked about my parents and what they did as well when would I bring my family to see the Big Hole in Kimberley? The tea flowed and the small chunks of meteor-hard rusk biscuits were dipped in.
This was some time ago. The kata was performed by our teacher then it was performed by a group of the club’s members. Bunkai: martial applications of the moves were also performed. A world first, I believe! Jitte means ‘ten hands’.