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Volume 10 – Issue 6 – New Poems – Scottish Review of Books
by Ron Butlin

Volume 10 – Issue 6 – New Poems

May 30, 2015 | by Ron Butlin


The very first Because

(no paws or claws

but logic’s laws)

came once upon a mouse-click

slick as any electronic

tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .

through Time’s deleted was.

Binary YES and binary NO,

the cursor showing where to go

(its heartbeat is what matters most

to touchscreen lives

lived ghost-to-ghost).

But oh! Oh! OH!

that once upon a long ago

catabatic flow

that’s brought us from entropic high

to less entropic low!

Never mind the why and how

or need-to-know,

only that we’ve come at last

to now –

i.e. what this cat and mouse allow.

Scottish cat and Scottish mouse

play hide-and-seek about our house –

no walls, no floors,

no stairs, no doors,

and nothing in between,

just me and you and you and me –

our hopes for what will never be

our fears for what has never been.

While Scottish sun and moon and star

make us who and what we are,

all histories of this and that

are better left to Scottish mouse

and Scottish cat.

We live in a glass kingdom that seems each day to become more fragile. Should we worry? After all, our elders and betters are determined to take care of us.



Back then, High Priests would breathe on every surface

of our sacred heart-stone;

lesser priests breathed

on the everyday transparency of streets,

buildings, billboards, trees, grass

and falling rain.

They breathed and they polished,

they made our precious kingdom shine!

(Beyond our borders lay a thanklessness

of darkness and division

where local deities clawed at the sky,

and stamped on the earth

to get attention.

Matters of life and death were settled

by divine clumsiness.

Small gods and smaller men – envy

gave them strength.)

Meanwhile, the light streaming from our

sacred heart-stone’s core purified

and protected us.

Our dreams were forgiven,

our longings and regrets (the mess

of fingerprints we’d smear on whatever

we desired)

were painlessly erased.

Contented years, contented centuries. Until –


This morning, the sun has come to a standstill.

Beneath us, the permafrost contracts.

We feel it crack.

Feel it split.

Glaciers and polar icecaps are

breaking off, slipping

(so far away from us, we hardly

hear a sound)

into the warming waters.

Our priests assure us they continue to breathe

and to polish every single moment

of every single day.

They say they breathe and polish harder

than ever before.

They have new incantations, they tell us,

new rituals.

Do they think they can move the sun?


Computer simulations show our kingdom

catching fire. Such an electronic crackling,

such a roar from the surround-sound speakers!

See-through roads and bridges melt.

Glass-hard girders buckle in the heat.

History’s a sentence left forever

incomplete . . .

The Ninth Roman Legion invaded Scotland c.120AD. They were never seen again. It was all so very, very long ago, and yet . . .



Thanks to the ruler-straight road from here to Rome

and back again, we saw them coming miles away.

Call up the bards to verse and curse!

And Druids to stop the clocks, freeze-frame

the weather, make screen-shots of the day

ten cohorts of six hundred men

came clambering over the Wall.

That was the Roman invasion of Scotland,

the one and only.

2,000 years on they’re still here, still wandering

the Celtic mist, still taking wrong turns

on the wrong tracks in the long-gone

Forest of Caledon.

For them, it’s a late November afternoon,

and always will be. Darkness falling,

night ahead, and always,

always raining.

Sinister . . . dexter / Sinister . . . dexter . . .


The Pentland Hills in summer –

a cloud passing over the sun.

Sudden chill. Sudden skirl of sleet

from an empty sky.

Here they come – IX Legio Hispana!

So worn-out now. So skin-and-bone weightless.

Their buckles, belts and body-armour

tattered air; their shields

and swords trails of rust . . .

We watch them march march

march across Flotterstone Water

making hardly a ripple.

(Not the sort of invasions we view on YouTube –

Blockbusters wars with blockbuster budgets!

SHOCK AND AWE, and the sequel


with its drones, its jets,

its PR threats –

all for $77 billion.

Tomahawk missiles at $1 million per,

delivering freedom and democracy . . .)

Sinister . . .dexter / Sinister . . . dexter . . .


Look close. How many lifetimes does it take

to read what’s right before our very eyes?

Pictish runes, sprayed graffiti,

hidden landmines . . .

The future’s scripted everywhere around us –

Carefully then, so very carefully, let’s brush aside

these last few grains of sand . . .


One day soon (give or take a million years),

Scald Law and Carnethy will have levelled down

to folded layers of white-heat, seared-red

rock that ebbs and flows,

cooling to form its new geology.

Ancient lives and ours have come, and gone.

The Pentlands freeze over once again. The cold sun

barely risen, makes evening shadows

of all that has been said and done.

Sinister . . . dexter / Sinister . . . dexter. . .

From this Issue

The Moral Maze

by Rosemary Goring

A Bridge Too Far

by George Rosie

Northward Ho!

by Patrick J. Murray

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