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.
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.