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Volume 8 – Issue 2 – New Poems – Scottish Review of Books
by Aonghas MacNeacail

Volume 8 – Issue 2 – New Poems

June 9, 2012 | by Aonghas MacNeacail


it’s not the squeal a chanter makes
but how your tapping fingers turn
that thread of sound into a melody


so give the boy who volunteers
his uniform
and tell him he’s defender
of the free

and ask the mother to believe
that cloth
setting him in a marching cloud
will parent him

don’t say their minds
are frets of weeds
brocades of doubt

what wraps him in
thin cotton is
antipathy to being
seen as sheep

for her, the page
is clear
each mother wears
her shadow as
the echo of our fears


dreams, those conversations
with the self, that seem to
answer nothing, can be rooms
where all the walls are mirrors,
where narrative’s a spinning
drum of phrases, images
interrogating how the mind
perceives a world in streams
of happening, that fix a hollow
moment you are certain lasts
forever, dark play elucidating
everything, which, on waking,
folds into a shadow wrapped
within a curtain coated in a
moss of possibilities that you
are walking in the tangled
suburbs of your own square
mile of marsh and wrangle
waiting for the light to settle
on an entrance to whatever
home that eyeless wending
draws your urge to know the
consummation (still uneaten
by your wish to tell yourself
that every recalled dream is
just a liquid, warm delineation
of true and living contraries)


from the hurrying bus, as so often,
the road will throw up banners of trees
when you’re looking for the clear view,
having glimpsed a stony brown slope,
a ragged sliver of green, a skewer
of roofs, and the deep possibility of
shorn hayfields wearing dark saucers
where bales had rested, but even
when memory sketches no vineyards,
mansions, orchards, or maze, just
the same stony slope, that possible
hedge, and a skewer of roofs, you still
want to know, want to see what ought
to be there, were the view as clear


looked at from above
it may show fields or streets
as neat geometries
but not the human weathers
that have swept
hospitable geographies
with no regard for
breath or growth or harvest

humanity may shape and till
and guard the flowering with
love, and yet there seems to
be a will for difference that
grinds the roots into a black
malignant gruel that spreads
through ditches, minds –

reading vultures, in their
grey committees, nodding
hoodies masquerading
as dour preachers ask
us to accept their chiding

words as true, constant
vessels set to guide us
through all thorny rigours,
what they say is listen,
follow what we say, or
you will pay

what they
want is that we walk the
thin ice crust that coats
a seething midden they
declare the sea of plenty –

what we observe is
all the empty houses no-one’s
got the cash to pay for,
limousines slide by but can’t
persuade that they are
crocks, the gospeller shoots
prayers through
the hollow arches of the sky,
enough for him that we
should hear  –

the truths they
tell are like that ice (we
sense the ferment underneath)
and they, our masters,
sachems, gaffers, dons,
insist eyes front, and stride ahead

if your narrative is
river, observe –
water seems not
minded to follow
straight lines,
so don’t insist
on the purity of
grammar, let
tributaries infiltrate their
colours, let
digression lick
against the inside
of your cheek, recall
the nature of the tale is
to insist
on being told
and ear asks only
that you hold
a certain shimmer, bright
enough to keep the flow of words
that bridge of air between a loading tongue
and sentient harbour
in memory,
the verbal matter
just beneath those
plaited runnels
weaves a breathing story line, articulates your own
recall but
every god, it would appear, demands his tribe wear thoughts
appropriate to his regimen, you have to
remain child, and stand as if within a basin with
jagged edges, beyond which, clouds of binding verbs
fold hair-shirt veils
around your lucent
frisking thoughts
inside bright infant skin you learned to fear words written on
stone pages
all your teachers showed you one road out
between high scripted walls, a narrow clinker track ditched deep each side
in dark putrescences
but you saw grass and primroses, you saw roses wearing friendly thorns, hazel clusters hanging over waterfalls and pools that
there were risks, but finned life swam
up still
against the stream


wind holds its breath,
the hills are shawled
in goat-hair gray, trees
heavy with weather
cling to their coats,
beyond a fence, manes
shimmer adumbration,
dog capers, chases
sticks, or squirrels (far
too fast for her), lolls
her happy tongue, while
on the verges of this autumn
amble, hidden regiments
of hunting spiders have laid
their gossamer nets in tangles
of damp grass, the heedful
walker tiptoes through
those airy fishing grounds,
is glad of bulk,
thanks nature for these gifts

From this Issue

Afgans in Oban

by Brian Morton

Lost in Translation

by Allan Cameron

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