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Volume 9 – Issue 3 – New Poems – Scottish Review of Books
by Stewart Conn

Volume 9 – Issue 3 – New Poems

September 14, 2013 | by Stewart Conn


The sofa in our sitting-room, long the worse

for wear, is newly back from an upholsterer

by royal appointment who announces

that to preserve the caché of age, ‘old money’ 

insists on less padding; whereas rather

than boast a pedigree of bottoms, ours

curves in the centre like dough rising.

A couple of days later we read how

the couch in Freud’s consulting room

so sags under the weight of over a century

of recollected terrors, phobias and dreams

an appeal has been launched for its repair:

surely of greater interest to retain the imprint

of the Wolf Man and those hundreds of others?

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Since dawn my binoculars have been trained

on a vixen burrowing frenziedly in a cage

at the foot of next door’s garden. When

the pest control man appears, he cloaks

himself in a brown blanket, to mask the kill.

Now the cubs, too, have gone: vermin

after all, the passageway still stinking.

Yet I retain a sense of connivance, unable

to dispel the memory of that hooded form,

cross between a ghoul and a crazed Capuchin.


Whenever they shot the perfect scene

he would hear the cry, “There’s a hair

in the gate, stand by to take it again”,

and like as not he’d end up distraught, the light

fading, the cast’s concentration gone. Then

his thoughts would turn to the wintry day

when crouched behind a dry-stane dyke

clutching his first box Brownie, he’d seen

that snowy-white creature, ears pricked,

and in the split second before it lolloped off,

clicked and caught it, a perfect hare in the gate.


In broad daylight a black girl in a white

dress crosses the street to caress one

of the tubbed hydrangeas burgeoning

on our front steps. On tenterhooks

behind net curtains, until she gracefully

recedes I fear she may snip a flower-head,

strip the plant bare even, provide each

in her troupe with a sumptuous corsage.

Such exoticism scarcely outdoes the claim

of one neighbour, then in her nineties,

that a Ghanaian woman on moving in

transformed our front room into a haven

for damaged birds, central a lime in leaf,

where crows’ broken wings could mend

before their release on the lawn, pairs

of mallard squittering on the floorboards,

Such malodorous squalor long since gone,

all we’d faced on a preliminary reccy

were lobster-creels stacked in the porch,

the seller about to embark on a career

as a fisherman up north, but facetiously

seen as a severe case of rising damp;

and in our term, no more than vagrant foxes

and squirrels, a sparrow-hawk on the clothes-line.

No way of guessing what may be ingrained

of ourselves and our perceived eccentricities, 

from a vulgar Victorian longcase to the stone 

lion with blue glass eyes sited in the garden;

or whether, some ultimate owner vacating

the premises, the hydrangeas still all the rage,

a wan household god, no-one left to preside

over, will pluck a bloom to adorn his cortege. 

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Of the operation

he remembers nothing,

or what preceded it,

only on coming round

swathed in bandages

to dream he is one

of Cadwallon’s knights

ordered to bind

their legs together

under their horses’

bellies so that they’d

remain mounted even

when mortally wounded.



The hitherto pent-up song-thrush

in our shrubbery relays the news

that mother and son are both well.

May you, assured of loving nurturing,

grasp in these tiny yet perfect

hands whatever the future may bring

and the world, no matter in what crazed

manner it may spin, do you no harm

but provide solace and protection.

Meantime in the family Bible the section

recording the passage of the generations

awaits your name’s neat inscription.

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Others are praised for their lavish plumage and fancy

call-notes, but this bullfinch settling in next door’s

garden will do fine for me, his trademark black cap,

white rump and whirring-in-air a miracle of nature –

while the visit of another, more complex and wondrous,

is announced by a ring at our front door. Who knows

but some day, the one may marvel at the other?

Meanwhile let us love him for what he is, regardless

of whether in due course he is noted for his song

and fearless acrobatics or like the homely sparrow,

keeping our peckers up, companionably chirpy.

Stone Lion

Among fragments of debris dispersed

on the muddy verge of the walk-way –

vandalised or stolen from a nearby garden,

no way of knowing – lay the head and torso

of a yellow stone lion with blue glass eyes.

A shame to let it lie, I returned next day

with an old rucksack and after a wobbly

cycle-run, found it a shady spot under

our cherry tree, an al fresco addition

to our accumulated lares et penates;

guardian of the precinct, enabling me

at any hour to look down at those eyes,

imperialist, like fixed stars. No sharper

contrast than with yours at four weeks,

fathomless pools as yet impenetrable

while the world waits for you to find

focus, and subject ourselves to scrutiny.

So great the expectation, as you mature.

On you meantime, whatever that future,


be all the blessings the gods can muster.

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From this Issue

North and South

by Rosemary Goring

Talent Spotting

by Harry McGrath

Fringe and Official

by Joseph Farrell

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