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Growing Old: Six Poems – Scottish Review of Books
by SRB

Growing Old: Six Poems

August 14, 2015 | by SRB


Douglas Dunn

He is a man for whom everyone’s a trespasser.

Co-existence?  He doesn’t believe in it.

Give you the time of day?  Not one minute.

He is happy to be a grinning contrarian.

Music, he claims, gives him indigestion.

He dismisses several generations

Including most members of his own.

He is a virtuoso concert pessimist

Who even disagrees with his own agreements.

He is the exact opposite of mellow.

You never see him sitting in the sun.

And as for ‘foreigners’ — oh-ho! —

He is the Keeper of terms like ’wog’ and ‘dago’.

Longevity has failed to teach him benevolence.

I notice his visible weak spot

Spilling from the back of his eternal cap —

And I think he deserves my parting shot:

And so I say to him, “Get your hair cut.”

Cognitive Disorders

Douglas Dunn

“Butterflies rock no cradles, nor do they sing.”

Or so a mad poet writes down on his page.

“I’ve listened, looked; can’t hear or see a thing

Other than snails on their silky pilgrimage

Over the slippery slabs of a garden path.

I’ve heard ants’ martial marching songs,

Their tiny tambourines, trumpets, and gongs,

Too-whoos of the nocturnal polymath.

I’ve heard the patient moans of mushrooms growing

Where bees coax ding-dongs from a foxglove’s bells,

A spider crooning at its loom, sewing

Its webs of death and dinner, bat-squeaks

In moon-shadow, their flittermouse farewells.

Now, though, I’ll go and whisper lullabies

To the traceless powdered butterflies

And all the little creatures that die in secret

Beyond imagination, mind, and wit.”

The Blue Wave

Vicki Feaver

‘Do it now, say it now, don’t be afraid.’

                  Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham

Your house with its lovely

light studio overlooking the sea

is sold, your work dispersed.

But in my head there’s a painting

done in your nineties

when just to lift your arm

was an effort: a single brave

upwards sweep with a wide

distemper brush so loaded

with paint the canvas filled

with the glistening blue wall

of a wave before it falls.


Vicki Feaver

When my memory

was a film library

with a keen curator

who knew precisely

where to find clips

of every word

I wished unsaid,

or deed undone,

to play back to me

on sleepless nights,

I’d have welcomed her

muddling the reels.

But now the curator’s

retired, the ordered

shelves are in chaos.

I roam the racks

without a guide

searching for scenes

I’ve lost. Sometimes,

not able to remember

what I’m searching for,

I find Forgetfulness

kneeling on the floor –

an old woman, pale

and worried as a ghost,

rummaging in a tangle

of shiny black ribbons.

Timor mortis conturbat me

Diana Hendry

Will it give me six months warning

Or come when least expected?

Will I trip over it one morning

And find myself disconnected?

Will it come on the way to Corstorphine

Or when sitting on the loo?

Will I need a lot of morphine

Will a bottle of brandy do?

Will it happen in broad daylight

Or wait until it’s dark?

Will it come like a lover at midnight

On a necromancing lark?

Will I lose control of my bladder?

Will I lose control of myself?

Will the Lord send down a ladder

And shock the National Health?

Will it start as a minor chill,

Then turn to a nasty cough

Will it spread everywhere until

Someone has to switch me off?

Is it already growing inside me?

Does it have a date and a time?

Will I know when at last it’s untied me?

O what’s the use of rhyme?


Diana Hendry

Nothing so lovely as       the hoot

of a distant train

running through your dream.

Is it childhood

you’re listening to, worlds going off the map,

or infinity?

Always you liked views that spoke of beyond –

those seascapes stretching out that didn’t stop at sky but went on…

What is it about the need for it?  The why

of flight,   mountaineering,   gift of grace.       How dire

if ours was the only galaxy!

How happily the word sits in the mouth, satisfying

as a communion wafer.

This is the sound of the distant train

running through your dream –


be-yond  be-yond   be-yond  be-yond

Douglas Dunn, Vicki Feaver and Diana Hendry have written new poems that tackle the theme of ageing for Second Wind, a Saltire Society pamphlet published in October. The poets have been commissioned by the Scottish Poetry Library as part of a collaboration with Luminate, the Saltire Society and Birlinn with funding from the Baring Foundation’s series of ‘Late Style’ artist commissions.

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