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NEW POEMS – Scottish Review of Books


James McGonigal
MARISCAT PRESS, £6, ISBN 978-0946 588 90 9, PP34
by SRB


February 10, 2018 | by SRB


O little clock you watch me
falling asleep.
O little clock you follow at a safe distance my night wanderings through the ruins.
O little clock you stare at me waking
with a glance as quizzical and bright as Venus.
Good morning to you too, little star.


Old shirt whose arms have enfolded mine on countless mornings
and whose tartan cloth has stretched to my beck and call
I know you have endured deaths by drown- ing and heat for me
only to wake in cool darkness at rest with your brothers.
Old friend who knows my body more inti- mately than most
I will add no codicil asking to be buried or burnt in you.
Far kinder surely the manumission of a char- ity shop rail
and getting used to the taste of some stranger’s poor bones.


I sit still – life casts off from the shore
and I’m watching it grow smaller like any other
amateur painter of the time of day.
At every crossroads I’d favour the benign track,
the least shady of three, only to find that it too
bent to the colour of peat smoke drifting.
Days loose now as tobacco strands. Outside sheepdog winds are herding clouds.
I caught the Avernus ferry this afternoon and noticed that most of the younger passengers
seemed excited just to be headed somewhere.


Yesterday I woke to a sky
the colour of breast milk.
It must have been watching me sleep for the past hour or more
while I snuggled like a crocus bulb under the rowan tree
dreaming of the brighter shades
I used to be.
This morning the world reads
like a translated poem
that makes almost as much sense backwards as forwards.
The rowan stands with one foot poised on earth. Its phantom limb
that stepped off into thin air years ago now tries to pull the skinny tree awry.


Twisting the strands
of breath from her mouth on a January morning, what could you knit up by mid-afternoon
as darkness comes adding its leaves to the branches?
Not a scarf or soft hat nor even a lambswool vest for her body. Instead, a white remnant as supple and full
as milk being poured from its jug to a bowl.


One of these years
he might miss not only her birthday
but the date she died. Waking at five
to slap barefoot through the half-dark
and contemplate mist easing up the glen
to brush fleece and cattle rumps, the ponies grey-bearded now, stiff-legged
as he peered out for their shadows grazing – She came back to me last night
in the deep blue dress with hair adrift
across one shoulder as she always used to like to wear it with that dress. First light
falling across the dream. Outside
burn waters tsked and bustled
sweeping word after word away.

From this Issue

The Bachelors

by James Campbell

The Debatable Land

by Harry McGrath

For Those In Peril

by John MacLeod

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