r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: December 2017

View of Scotland/Love Poem

Down on her hands and knees
at ten at night on Hogmanay,
my mother still giving it elbowgrease
jiffywaxing the vinolay. (This is too
ordinary to be nostalgia.) On the kitchen table
a newly opened tin of sockeye salmon.
Though we do not expect anyone,
the slab of black bun,
petticoat-tails fanned out
on bone china.
‘Last year it was very quiet…’

Mum’s got her rollers in with waveset
and her well-pressed good dress
slack across the candlewick upstairs.
Nearly  half-ten already and her not shifted!
If we’re to even hope to prosper
this midnight must find us
how we would like to be.
A new view of Scotland
with a dangling calendar
is propped under last year’s,
ready to take its place.

Darling, it’s thirty years since
anybody was able to trick me,
December thirty-first, into
‘looking into a mirror to see a lassie wi as minny heids as days in the year’ –
and two already since,
familiar strangers at a party,
we did not know that we were
the happiness we wished each other
when the Bells went, did we?

All over the city
off-licenses pull down their shutters,
people make for where they want to be
to bring the new year in.
In highrises and tenements
sunburst clocks tick
on dusted mantelshelves.
Everyone puts on their best spread of plenty
(for to even hope to prosper
this midnight must find us
how we would like to be).
So there’s a bottle of sickly liqueur
among the booze in the alcove,
golden crusts on steak pies
like quilts on a double bed.
And this is where we live.
There is no time like the
present for a kiss.

Liz Lochhead, from A Choosing: Selected Poems

Staying In

I watch the city shrug its clothes back on.
An appaloosa spatter gathers scent
that hits the brain the way it hits a lawn:
it quenches, hard as mint. I think it meant
to come inside, but only leaves a note
in droplets on the door; at Hogmanay
it settles in the lungs and in the throat
and whispers too a hush of seaside spray
that sweeps below the ribs and keeps its snow
flakes back from hopeful tongues. I’m breathing when
the rainsmell pours my throat a dram, and so
I open up the window wider, stand again
here in our cloud and wincing, hats and boots,
a pearlish weeping reaching for the roots.

Charlotte Runcie, from The Salt Book of Younger Poets, (ed by Roddy Lumsden & Eloise Stonborough)

This Was the Year

This was the year before the year
that collapsed on us, a roof brought down by snow.
The year of riding through abandoned stations
on the riverside line that never crossed the river
but danced among warehouses, silos and factories (deceased)
beside battleships settling into red mud.
This was the year that, too exhausted to sleep,
I boiled down the pink and ivory and blue of other women’s hands
into a single grey slab. The soap pot next the soup,
fumes of gardenia and bone.
This was the year we were always coming home.
Three steps and a garden where the splayed trike in the frost said
better to have careless love than none at all.
This was the year before the year
I found out that we are fused from lightning, our bodies
maps across which electrical storms flare
and move on. This was the year
extremely far rooftops and lit windows
seen from a plane flying its late night mission
had their glow zapped by pinball fire.
This was the year I closed the door underneath the porch light
and stood out on the first of the three front steps, listening.
Our children’s beds expecting their bodies
to come warm them like small fires
but growing cold with waiting.

Pippa Little, from Overwintering

New Year's Day

Under the Christmas lights,
I watch across the river,
Pretending I see you,
So far from the city where I stand,
Where I've made my home now
And every December is fresh in the snow

The New Year is made for dancing,
We all dance again
The New Year is brave and forgiving,
And every December is fresh in the snow

And in the evening chill,
I watch the frost descending
On all of the houses,
So strange and new,
And as I look for you,
I feel in this city
A fire is kindling
To make me anew

And when the sun is high
on the morning of tomorrow,
And all of the people -
So bright and new,
And as the distance stands,
I am standing by the river
The people are dancing
On New Year's Day

Cliona Cassidy
Catriona McKay

wishing everyone a safe and happy Hogmanay!

Christmas Song

Dougie MacLean

Nollaig Chridheil dhuibh uilleadh
Happy Christmas to you all


a mark of respect

Group to Stop the Development at Culloden
Protest against planned homes near Culloden Battlefield

in October, a housing development at Bannockburn battlefield was blocked...'concerned the development would not respect the landmark or view of the monument.'  BBC News


Bela Lugosi in Stornoway

I was definitely typed, doomed
to be an exponent of evil:
each time I stepped into a room,
there was that still
expectation something wicked would be done,
until within the murk of winter,
without beam or glint of sun,
I found that kirk and entered
a hall where black coats clustered,
dark funereal hats loomed over pews,
and this old preacher in the pulpit mustered
just about enough strength to give the news
that human souls could rise again without the need
to bleed others dry and white.
I felt my cloak shrug off me then,
no longer seeking refuge within the gloom of night.

Donald S Murray, from SY StorY: Portrait of Stornoway Harbour 

Early Morning Train to Inverness

from time to time snow sprinkles from the sky
the way flour sifts from a baker’s fist

grey steel pylons pose like giant girls
playing ropes

gorse, dark bottle green, bristles in scruffy tufts
on a badly shaven chin of hill

a woman in a suit tap-taps at her laptop staring at the screen

scots pines turn their Presbyterian backs
on a stream that pishes like a drunk

a grey cloud weeps over patches of snow
pooled like milk in nooks and crannies

a lochan slate-grey bides her time, swollen-bellied
in February, her waters will break in March

a woman paints her nails, the air grows thick with the reek of varnish

Slochd summit snow, a crumpled duvet
chucked on the chittering land

Look! Look! A red stag with forked lightning antlers
poses for a child’s pointing finger

a mobile phone skirls Scotland the Brave

between peaks that rise like stony breasts
a yellow lorry carrying eggs, races the train

as packed like battery hens we hurtle on
towards breakfast and Inverness

Magi Gibson, from Washing Hugh MacDiarmid’s Socks