If I have to, then let me be the whaler poet,
launcher of the knife, portioning off
the pink cut, salt trim and fat, tipping
the larger waste off the side of the boat,
and then to have the poem in the drawer;
or, perhaps, let it be the poet nurse,
hearts measured by a small watch, balmer,
washer of old skin, stopping by the door
in the night –
or the oil-driller poet, primed
for the buried flame and heat, lips to the black,
aware how the oilfields in the evening
are lit like our own staggered desks.
Or, the horse-trader or the smith, or the waiter poet –
offering the choice wine, polishing to the light,
the bringer of the feast and the bill.
The moon must be sick of being in poems –
always gripped by fingers of late honeysuckle,
always filtered in the lake through the jetty’s slats,
always silvering the flicked tails of the koi.
Always a dinner plate or mirror,
always a fingernail clipping, a grin.
The moon must be sick of being in poems.
Always the bright pin in the picture’s corner,
always looking in at the windows of middle class homes.
Always shoved above a bridge in Paris or Venice,
always an eyeball or symbol,
always a radiant woman, a bowl.
It’s also in the splintered windscreen of the crime scene
with its blots of blood. It’s hung over the pig farm,
streaking white across the silo’s cheek
and slanting through the lorry walls in blades.
It’s in every dented can at the landfill pit,
turning the tip to a shoal of dirty fish.
Never the buried skull,
never the gummed plug in the junkie’s sink.
Never the white cat under the truck’s wheel,
never the beached and stinking jellyfish.
Never the gallstone or the pulled tooth, of course.
Nobody wants to read poems about this.
Waiting for Connection
I can see it in the air outside, glowing
towers of data, unenterable, unscalable,
a red ghost metropolis risen up
from the frog quat houses of the suburbs;
stacked to vanishing point, translucent
rooms full of translucent boxes; air
chirruping with information
– I could scoop it hand-over-hand into my mouth,
stick my face in it, holding my eyes
open beneath the surface, roll in it
until my clothes cling to me obscenely.
Its neon walls flyzap possibilities –
to walk down the street, to leave the house –
and anyway all the libraries are shut,
the shops are shut, the houses are shut
and every lit window in their red brick fronts
is a taunting monitor – IKEA, Facebook,
Twitter, IWOOT, Wikipedia,
Amazon, Google, Google, Google…
I need connection, I need stuff
and I need it delivered by 9 a.m.
My fingers, oh my fingers are slivered,
my fingers are slivered by catalogue pages,
my mind by the edge of the dead voice
that apologises over and over for the wait.
And how do you survive? Your long-throat,
your red-rag-to-a-bull head?
You rise heavy in the night, stars drinking
from your poppy neck.
Your henna silks serenade me
under the breadth of the Pyrenees.
You move like an opera,
open like sea anemones.
You are earth’s first blood.
How the birds love you.
I envy your lipstick dress.
You are urgent as airmail, animal-red,
Ash Wednesday crosses tattooed to your head.
Your butterfly breath
releases your scents, your secrets,
bees blackening your mouth
as your dirty red laundry
all hangs out.
Google Page Twenty
Poor Google page twenty adrift in the internet desert
nobody comes to click on you witness your existence barely I
in my third hour of searching for ice wines in the valleys
of British Columbia you are the product of selected words
wine / winter / BC and the frustrated insistence of return, return
every topic and / or search terms has a Google page twenty:
the straight-backed Ariel font, the calm blue letters
the delicate coded strings of jargon and the ever so polite
Did you mean? above the net of stories from around the world:
how in Germany one vintner mourns his unfrozen grapes
with a picture of farmers knelt in the snow beside their vines
and me in the study bleary-eyed at 3am GMT
unable to stop clicking, clicking where outside the long grass
shivers and I click alone but not as lonely as you.
On Fancying American Film Stars
From the big screen, and larger than life for a week or two,
which is all a tangent universe can stand,
we take them home and introduce them to our modest
Their baby blues stare out at us at all hours of the day and
prompting every manner of ridiculous thought, such as:
‘The world is small’; or ‘What if Elvis could have taken to my
‘I will ride across the desert on a purple roan, or some such,
for anything is possible’; and even that old chestnut,
‘There is only one for everyone alive.’ The cat mewls
at its perpetually empty bowl, the work piles up on the desk,
but we simply say, with a new-found recklessness:
‘This is not the most important thing in my life right now’;
‘you’re a predator, catch your own’. We exist
in the bubble of our making, our souls glistening like
by turns rock bottom and on fire. What causes it to
Who can know, but one day we double-take to find ourselves
filing them away in the rack of lost hopes
with the show-jumping videos and ‘twelve easy tunes for
the cat purring as it settles on the easy chair, as if to say
‘What then, what then’, the sky sucking back its thunder-
and storm winds, saving only one small cloud, which loiters
putty grey, shedding rain like tiny lead balloons
on the pristine terraces. And somewhere else a universe
The poems are taken from Be The First To Like This: New Scottish Poetry,
edited by Colin Waters
(Vagabond Voices, £11.95)