Breaking the mould
In the box-van back a mirror cabinet
trembles leafy outer worlds under
a roller-back gate of steel, half open,
like the cloth-bound shell of my father’s desk,
a sticking portal to cryptic drawers, tiny shelves,
to faint unsmoked tobaccos of before.
Ahead, and through my windscreen,
outside inside, green shimmers framed
by the mover strapped hardwood mouldings,
whisper hints of a remote Narnian spring.
Breaking the Mould grins in lean sans-serif,
strap-line wry beneath the tailgate logo.
I pray granny’s paper-lined display case
will pass Dens Road’s potholes un-cracked,
that still somewhere seven more years’ luck,
or even fair Cair Paravel, might be found intact.
Very pleased to have ‘Struck’ published at the Poetry Shed.
This one was inspired by an object shown to me many years ago by the very knowledgable Sandy Edwards, who was curator of the Bell Pettigrew Natural History Museum at the time. Since then I have (amongst other things!) spent many years being fortunate enough to do ‘media odd jobs’ for researchers involved in studying the scope and meaning of sounds made by marine mammals. My knowledge of what they do is slight, but I continue to find what they discover remarkable and inspiring.
the shortest night
Nearly eleven p.m., dry and mild,
bright enough for reading outdoors.
Warm intimations of honeysuckle,
lemon balm, tiger lily’s sharper bite.
Sleepless through three thin hours undarkened,
fortified tea brewing dusk spun verses,
I fidget dust my tiny cabinet of
keepsakes found and curiosities kept,
rearranging these unsure talismans,
certain enough what each is, less clear why.
I find and re-read some childhood chapters,
and discover though changed they move me still.
Until, like a birthday dawn, bird sung dews
condense fresh light from thin and unslept airs.
In the tradition of something a little scary near Christmas…
Sometimes it seems my existence falters, my
touch fails on phones or pads or screens, is it
only aridity, or am I momentarily – gone?
Once upon a good laugh, the world paused,
after we smiled unflinching through another
late staked old un-scary tv movie.
It can’t be easy to be a Dracula Lee so
terminally camera shy always the mirror’s absentee,
a suavely dangerous kind of unkind quantum ghost.
Back then, after vanishing spot and a long sharp tone,
analogue static shushed the speckled shades of night –
no more stars to steer by, straight on ’til morning.
Washing afterwards, it usually began as a pull,
rapidly suppressed, a twitch tap touch somewhere between
the spine and one shivered shoulder blade.
Knowing nothing’s there, but following that compulsion
to take a rapid confirming rear-view glance –
how ridiculous, to have to check.
Doubt hangs somewhere in the looking, not behind,
but returning to the mirror, from face rinsed hands,
fearing an unseen absence reflected there.
In November there will be an exhibition at St Margaret’s House in Edinburgh called Grown Together. Timed to coincide with the launch of the Tree Charter, this will feature the work of nineteen artists with a shared interest in trees. I’ve been working on video material for a loop which will be part of a small installation. The videos combine ambient audio captured in some local woodlands with animated text and readings of some of my poems from the small collection called Drawing breath.
Here’s a test piece for one of my videos. (Please ignore the headphone graphic near the start – it’s just there to indicate that there is audio to passing visitors).
The poem takes a tree’s-eye-view of passing humans, coming around to memory and how remembering works, or doesn’t…
Trees can be very big, and some of them are very old. Their character and way of life is complex, in many ways hidden, and very different from our own. They can make us pause and they can make us gasp.
drawing breath is a collection of twelve poems arising from a collaboration with visual artist Tansy Lee Moir.
I’ve made booklet with the poems, some photographs, and some of Tansy’s drawings, and I’ve also made a series of recordings of readings. Hope you like them!
You can find links to all of these and more about our collaboration here.