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Jackie Kay Five Poems – Scottish Review of Books
Jackie Kay
Format: Paperback Pages: 80 pages Publisher: Pan Macmillan Publication Date: 19/10/2017 Category: Poetry by individual poets ISBN: 9781509863174
by Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay Five Poems

August 11, 2017 | by Jackie Kay


Yes, wee Rabbie, sma’, modest,
Unpolished, no pretentious;
Precious, yet no precious
In smairt but casual dress.

Yes, Rabbie, saft and hard,
Ploughman and Bard,
A boy afore the man on guard,
Afore life dealt its odd cards.

Yin hand clutches a poem;
The ither a flower frae home.
Years tae come and years tae go,
Years tae sizzle and tae glow.

The men he’ll be he disnae know:
Wee Rabbie: a lang way still to go.


Nothing mair he wud hae liked sin’ auld lang syne
Than to resume the plough, no mimes,
An’ find a spare hour or twa, noo and agin,
To write oot an idle or pithy rhyme.

Nothing mair he would have liked then
Than to work his rustic muse to the bone,
On the back o’ a keen westlin’ wind,
Awa frae polite society

And Edinburgh literary soirees,
Where he felt he maun be fair copy
The bard o’ old Scotia, some counterfeit
Some pirate, some duplicate.

He needed no more standing ovations!
No calls to represent his nation, no imitations!
Not even another flirtation! Not world domination.
He needed back tae his rustic station.


Had we never met like this, my luve, my lass,
Never kissed, never become all amorous,
Never hid, never split, never went on the piss,
Never kept shtum, played dumb, nursed secrets,
Never stared at the moon and wished, wished!
Never taken risks, never imagined this.
Had we never believed oor luve wad prevail,
We’d hae ayeways gone awol, or aff the rails.

Had we never been oot o’ this wilderness
We wad hae ne’er felt this quiet tenderness.
Had we never thought this day wad surely come:
Houghmagandie equality! A marriage; gay.
The guid day when me and my bonnie lassie
Might walk doon the aisle, and be free.


Bonnie lassie will ye go,
Will you go wi me bonnie lassie O
Will ye haud me closely, tight, And never let me go
And when the sun goes doon
And the moon is on the wane
Will ye ne’er grow weary, weary O

Bonnie lassie will ye stay
Through aw that’s coming tae greet us O
The loss, the grief, the wildernesses,
The blank faces and the hot ushes
The blootered days, the haze, the blaze, old age,
The dying light, the rage agin it,
Will ye ne’er grow weary, weary O

Bonnie lassie will ye tak
The squeeze o years, their weight, crack.
And across the banks and braes, we maun donder
Hand in hand, still fu o’ wonder –
Till the trees are bony, and the bonny banks
Spill, my girl, across the corn rigs and barley,
The unploughed elds, the green grown rashes O
Will ye ne’er grow weary, weary O


Had he ever boarded the Roselle
from Leith to Jamaica
(Like Nancy previously,
who he said he could have lived or died with;
And had Nancy’s husband never met Ann Chalon Rivvere
his so-called negro mistress
and had his ‘bonny octoroon’ daughter,
Ann Lavinia McLehose;)

Had he never come so close,
Stared madness in the face,
been misery’s most humble servant;
Had he not got the dairy maid pregnant
Had he not written
Will ye go to the West Indies dear Mary?
Had he not very nearly agreed

To be an assistant overseer on
a Jamaican Plantation,
out of whatever desperation.
Had he ever gone to the boiling house,
or ruled over the field gangs.
Had he not corresponded about the planting line;
Been fascinated by hypocrisy;
Had he been part of the ‘egalitarian tyranny.’

Had he not written the standard Habbie;
Not written To A Mouse or To A Louse –
O wad some pow’r the gift gie us
To see ourself as others see us –
Not seen misfortune’s cauld NorWest,
Not worried about esh eating insects
Earthquakes and wild hurricanes
Had he overseen slaves toil on the sugarcane;
Had he not written A Slave’s Lament…

Had his dream of lime and orange and pine come to fruition.
And had he finally boarded the Nancy
for Savannah Western Jamaica,
Heard his brother’s sigh, seen his sister’s tear,
Left his bosom freend, his wee daughter,
Departed for those ‘torrid climes’ or drowned.
Had he not quoted Othello ‘the tragic African’
Not been patronised, gawked at, or celebrated,
Had he not feared envious calumny;

Had he not been strong and course,
hair black and curly, worn a dark-coloured coat,
farming boots, a waistcoat, worked the hard land.
Had he not been the Bard o’ Scotland.
Had he never been seen like this,
Smashed on the floor of a national gallery,
Then who might he be? Not Rabbie.

From this Issue

Who’d Be a Man?

by Zoë Strachan

Back In The USSR

by David Robinson

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