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 Promoting Poetry in Scotland

The Runner-up of the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award for 2014 is claire askew

Two Poems | claire askew


         Visiting Nannie Gray


We go on Sundays to make her tea.

I’ve known her years, but every week

we’re introduced. She thrums my name’s soft hiss

in her teeth, tells you she’s sure

you and I are for keeps.

 

We bite our lips as she slams round the house,

chitters for a long-dead cat, and

worried he’s missing, puts out fish.

She never sits—

 

fluttering like a moth at the nets,

she asks you where we’ve tied the horse

and trap, while the red Ford Escort smarts in the drive

like a wound.

 

And would I like to see her frocks?

And every week I say I would.

 

She spreads them on the bed like relics,

recites the names of seamstresses, department stores.

There’s always one whose floral print

she bunches in her fist—flimsy anchor to the past—

says without flinching, bury me in this.

 

And that’s the moment every week,

the heart-stuck lurch as she realises what she is,

for just a breath. Then like a child, afraid and angry,

she reaches for me, whispers I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.



                                    *

 

          Landscape Speaks of Poets

—A response to Landscape and I’ by Norman MacCaig

 

The thing is, climb it.

The thing is, know the lark and hawk

are portents on the tongues of trees.

The thing is, plant yourself in me

in all the ways you can:

plunge in—the loch will tell

a tale of me while skinning you alive.

 

This is the thing. The thing is

what the crab and foxcub say

when you’re not listening.

The thing is you are tiny,

flitting like a moth across

the eyelid of my ancient night.

My rock and blood and claw and spire—

 

that is the thing you’re digging for,

sunk to the wrist in clart and sweat,

your fingers brittle-white as chalk.

The thing is, climb the mountain.

Come and stand at my front door

and see the thing I truly am.

Then we’ll talk.