Poems

POEMS FROM PAULINE’S SELECTED WORKS, BE AN ANGEL

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Pauline was the Scottish Poetry Library’s Poet of the Month (January 2010) with this poem:

MEETING AT THE MOBILE LIBRARY VAN

In your muddy coat, you stroll up from your croft;
choose two biographies.

And I’m not sure you’ll want
to look at poetry; am surprised

when the pirate behind your fiery eyes
lets me help you choose a Douglas Dunn
to add to your collection.

Quick as a dog you’re down at the loch side
showing me your veg patch,
hidden from storms inside peat stacked walls.

“Bloody deer have eaten all my greens.”

You ask if I like beetroot, tug up
two huge globes covered in mud.
Each one must weigh at least a pound.

And I’ve been waiting for this windy day
to open windows wide,

chopping the beets with onions and Bramleys
adding sugar, spice, and vinegar
and slowly simmering them together.

And I’m thinking, six jars of chutney
are more than a fair exchange

for the poetry we chose for you to relish.

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SHORE SEQUENCE

APRIL 6th

look at you
flouncing your white petticoats
onto the shore
grabbing pebbles as you dance away

APRIL 10th

sand spattered with rain
like rough paper

MAY 3rd

today the sea has left skeins
of treasure on the sand
each wave ebbs a necklace
seaweed threads, broken shells,
feathers, straw and fine peat grains

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POEMS FROM IRONING WITH SUE LAWLEY

A WOMAN’S PRAYER

Oh Lord! Grant me
one whole day in the house alone,
a day from before dawn until after sunset,

a day from morning until evening
or from after breakfast until dinner time.
No, no, cancel that, thinking about dinner will ruin the day.

Grant me one whole day to be
master of the house. Not mistress;
master of the house, all day.

Well Lord! It’s hard to explain the difference it makes,
the tidiness stays tidy, meals are taken lightly,
but it’s more than that.

Alone is separate, spacious.
I may do everything. I may do nothing.
Limitless hours of possibility release the day.

Oh Lord! On second thoughts,
grant me two whole days
in the house alone.

TO A DAUGHTER IN WAITING

Stronger than butterflies,
inside me a trapped bird
batters its wings against my soft walls.

All day I think of you,
begin a thousand jobs,
stand in the middle of the room
not going left, not going right.

Your blue eyes in the photograph
look deep trust in me.
I have not prepared you for the pain.

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EXTRACTS FROM NORTH UIST SEA POEMS

each wave writes
its own fine line
a wavescape scribbled on the sand
which is rewritten every day

OCTOBER 14th

The sea fine wrinkled
like my own skin
slack on the bone
not making waves
just a splash
at the last moment
before the ebb.

NOVEMBER 21st

Grey on grey
the corrugated iron sea
one shade deeper than the sky
washes in reluctantly.

JANUARY 11th

The
sea
out of control

blaming
the moon

and the conniving wind

NEVER BEFORE

Grown men tremble when they meet,
have never seen, never felt
not in living memory, never before.
And they know storms.
Marooned in the blind dark,
never so long a black night
the sea rising, never before so high,
shuttering in across open fields
pursued by the frantic wind

Houses shook in the suck and push of it,
the smack of rain and the banging.
Not knowing what was banging,
walking from room to room with torches,
drowsing not sleeping, finding buckets
to catch water dripping through ceilings,
listening for the ebb for a slackening
which never came.

In the late dawn of cold morning,
tales are told of causeways fallen,
roads barred by boulders
shoals of seaweed swept inland
of roofs blown off,
of sheds fetched up on other crofts,
a slate through a window impaled on a pillow
an old woman afloat on her bed
and people up to their waists in water
and forty sheep flocked dead in a corner
and mile after mile of grass and black plastic
clinging to broken wire fences.

Never before such a torn island
and the west coast shoreline gnawed to the bone.

THE WAY DOWN

The way down
no longer is the way down
the storm has sliced the dunes like cake
and clawed the sand away.
The drop is sheer, twenty feet or more.
I want to push my boots into the edge
and leaning back slither down onto the shore
and shout my anger at the waves for what they’ve done
but the sea is scouring in. I sense its hunger and I hold my tongue.

Even
a ribbon of kelp
propelled by the wind
leaves its pale trace in the sand

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POEM FROM DISAPPEARING OUT

THE DEAD

They walk with you
the dead.

Some skip along in front
some walk beside
some, like naughty children,
drag behind.

Others walk on top of you
crush you into nothing
or demand to be carried
like shopping.

A few slip like loose change
into pockets.

And one or two
lie curled together,
stitched into the lining of your heart.