Warning: session_start() expects parameter 1 to be array, string given in /home/customer/www/scottishreviewofbooks.org/public_html/wp-includes/class-wp-hook.php on line 292
Volume 3 – Issue 1 – Poems – Alexander Hutchison – Scottish Review of Books
by Alexander Hutchinson

Volume 3 – Issue 1 – Poems – Alexander Hutchison

October 29, 2009 | by Alexander Hutchinson

S U O N A  P E R  T E

The bell strikes five from the tower of San Michele:

the seventeenth hour has slid away; a late September sun

has spilled along and off the south-faced wall, and soon this

beautiful, ravenous, vast city in the valley of the Po, its elegance

and industry, its desperate imprecations, the crowds that bay

and sway in the catafalque of San Siro, for Baggio, Shevchenko,

Zanzara, Volpone; intricate pinnacles and ladders of sound,

confections, conspiracies; minna di vergine on the pasticcio’s glass

counter shelf, somewhere with saffron risotto al salto, somewhere

a slit or truncheon, sirens and mayhem; all subtle, immediate

human exchanges – come va? come sta? or vaffanculo – matrons

encrusted in coral and amber, and anywhere, everywhere grace

of flesh and eyes and favour, ragazze with backpacks or Vuitton

or nothing; in a morning (God, less – take two stops on the metro)

perfection in appearance: innocent and wary, or down the stairs

in boots and hair, meretrix incarnate, blatant tits and vacant stare

(not this one), which even the dim or insensate must savour;

in the heart of the city, Stazione Centrale; O Santa Sofia, I’ve seen

your handmaidens, have worshipped abashed and chap-fallen;

dritto, sinistra, tenere la destra – what turn shall I take now? my soul

in the Duomo’s half-dark disconcerted, so I light a tall candle;

dove dovrei girare? alas the sad pigeons adrift in the piazza, alas for

the clapped-out green nag under Pepe Missori; O Lucifer, your

handiwork and artisans are legion, in CISCO and Squawk Box

and NYMEX, Komatsu; excepting, no question, the white flat-

topped sisters, or by Porta Romana in ‘the street of the orchards’

Piera’s trattoria (no nonsense, no menu, just stump up when she

asks you) – carpaccio, tortino, her gnocchetti verdi; O San Benedetto,

benedictions in return: each day, lips, tongue and throat slaked

by your watery benevolence; but all these, my brothers and sisters,

must founder: this night or next night we all will go under; if not

on the feast day of great San Michele, at four in the morning,

or in before lunchtime, or soon like the city in the hour that’s

just struck now; shuttered or shadowless, in the flatlands

of Lombardy, Milano, unparalleled, lies down in the dark.



It is an ideal occupation for children

on a wet afternoon

put them head to tail in an oven proof dish

and remove any pips

score as above or into little bars

do not roll for this also toughens

cover with foil with a weight on top

wrap the birds in the bacon rashers

melt the fat in a saucepan

turn over when little bubbles appear

whip the egg whites very stiff

then coat the other side

take out with a perforated spoon

add watercress, fried oatmeal or skirlie

when cut it is a soft pink butter

the gravy is served separately.



The last time I saw him

he was loath to take

his eyes off two frigorific

local fillies, pacing along

the Coogait – half way

between Bannister’s bar

and the mortuary gate.



(for Ian)



from shadow



and silver


no pounce-work

no grudge music


words are in

the breathing ground


this uncircum-

scribable air.



Of course there is an error

in the cleanness of the sea, and

for the landing of eggs outside the

compound something must be done.

Whereas tea and honey are merely

in decline, the lemon slice has

taken a holiday and may not return.


The wind in the chestnut trees

I assume has been taken for granted.

Conversely, firing of the jackhammer

at 7.15 occupied my full attention.


It is not that the women are not

wonderful – they are – but that

they are out of the question.

Elzbieta in particular has

legs that go nowhere.


What is the matter with the

butter on that dish? Is it possible

I will forget the mixing of cement

that followed my early re-awakening?


Agnieska could have been more

pleasant in a number of respects –

nevertheless, her lower lip has a

quality I do not discount: that is

as far as pinkness and durability

are concerned.


Can no one here fix a proper

time for appointments? The canal

is empty; the remaining ducks

are in a state of confusion.


As for myself, I would

take a tram. But number 6

runs away; whereas 13 and 12

come together, overcrowded with

unpleasant people. It is risible

what the taxi driver has suggested.

Well, nothing could be

further from the truth. I did try

the scrambling of egg; still the

marmalade was beyond my grasp.


What does Bo’zena think

she is up to? When she dances

it is plainly disconcerting.

Perhaps we should all sit down.


No it is not my turn.

I think after all there was

something funny about that slice

of sausage. Whatever unravelling

you had in mind will probably

now have to be postponed.


Disappointment is everywhere;

but when notice is short, displays

of pique are not unforeseen. Adjik

has gone off at a tangent once more.

What happened to his finger is no

longer our concern. I suspect the

biscuits have gone off with him too.


Unfold the map, and re-affix

the dog. Perhaps the jam will work.

I did spot some pickles and preserves

in the cupboard in the bathroom.


Port side is always best.

On the green part there is nothing

that will serve. If it comes to that,

take care to salute the quarterdeck

when piped on board. All hands take

great offence if this be neglected.



My friend, across the space

within this ancient hill-top town

everything gives breath to what

we wish or might aspire to.


Whatever the Volscians, whatever

those who built Cyclopic walls

before them felt, we feel.


Seeking beyond beauty or

ambition one at least to share

‘an unguarded joke’

fireflies at night.



Hospes et humus – guests

a little while then gone.



Broom, elder, lemon-flower

the fragrance of valerian.


All this in a loom of light

is shuttled back and forth.

Swifts and martins carve the air.

Each olive tree on every

slope is shaped to give its

tiny blue-green song of praise.



for GMB


Mist at midnight,

night-scented stock;


happily betrayed

in what we choose

to name or work:


in this case gilly-

flower cruciferous

in clove-scented air.


CARBON ATOM by Alexander Hutchison is published by Link-Light
(47 Camphill Avenue, Langside, Glasgow G41 3AX)

ISBN: 0-9554434-0-7

From this Issue


by George Rosie

The King My Father

by Christopher Rush


by Hannah McGill

Trivial Pursuits

by Rosemary Goring

Blog / Discussion

Posts Remaining