sheena blackhall (18/8/1947 / Aberdeen)
Past Masters (10 Scots Poems)
After The Scream, Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
Dae ye wauk forrit, or dae I step back?
Grandsire, the space grows closer ilkie day
I am yer seed, yer bluid an thon's a fac'.
Deid twal lang years afore I kent yer lack
Ye are a shard the ploo turns up frae clay I
'm telt I'm baith yer marra an yer makk
Yet nae in aa. I niver learned the knack
0 plooin, calvin, coortin, fechtin... they
Are man's domain, tho I am jist as swack
A wirdsmith an a singer as micht shakk
A rhyme or twa, like ye, frae Natur's play
The Sizzen's cycle, green, gowd, white an black
This brig I staun on... aneth ilkie crack
I see the river ragin turgidly
The drooned, the damned, aa wheeched awa tae wrack
Sic bluid-reid skies abeen! They gar me shakk
Ye socht some solace in Freemasonry
Tae thole yer weird, its joys an its hairtbrakk
Relentless I wauk doon the self-same track
We're aa in thrall tae oor mortality
The wheel o life birls like the zodiac
Rummlin onwards tae posterity.
2.The Ship of Fools
After the fragment of a triptych on wood in the Musee du Louvre, Paris, Hieronymus Bosch: 1450-1516
Tint on the warld's watter
The ship o Gowks is skipperless.
Nae pynt o embarkation in its log buik
The mast-heid's a tree, its pennants, leafy twigs
In the craw's nest, a hoolet's the luik-oot
On the deck, there's Haly Orders, Last orders, Lower Orders
Boozin an guzzlin, Toozlin an snoozlin
Caird playin, dowp sweyin, Lute strummers, heid bummers
Wee chancers, romancers
Gropers an topers, the Sacred an Profane
Tummlin thegither like rattens doon a drain
The hale o humanity's smush
Tint on the warld's watter
Roon an roon in the ocean's hurlygush
Alang wi Odysseus, Nelson, Da Gama, a pirate bruiser,
Columbus, Eric the Red A Saga cruiser...
Settin aff fur a life on the ocean brine
Charon takks the fares at the hinnereyn
3.Starry Nicht, Balquidder
After Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh 1853-1890
My toon lies hyne awa in its ain licht
Sprauchlin ower knowes an howes, grown fat wi fowk,
Illumined bi the lichts o howf an shop.
The planets dwine tae nocht abeen sic smachrie.
Oor nations try tae harness win an wave
Thinkin thirsels as pouerfu as the Yird,
Yet theirs is nae the haun that rowes the Gird
Here, bi the lochan, trees are the anely pillars
Haudin up the lift's Aybydan blue
Stars bleeze frae birlin clouds aroon the meen
I grow baith wee an greater in their presence
Tae be sae smaa, an ken it, isnae sair.
Diminished, yet a pairt o aa that's hale
An halesome in this tapsalteerie warld
Up in the Nicht wi the Crab, the Swan
The Great Bear wauks ower the Starry Dawn
Solomon, Caesar, Kublai Khan
A meenit's flash in the cosmic pan
We're aa o us sic tae the Ocean's dulse
Ane wi the beat o the primal pulse
4.Journey tae Keith
Lowsed frae the toun the thunnerin train
Breenges by throw the sleety rain
A hoodie craw on a post at Dyce
Grips wi its cleuks a perch o ice
Black plooed rigs fite sna is thiggin,
Lie like a moat roon a ferm biggin
The Nor East spring wi its hairt o steen
Is derk's the nicht on a weet foreneen
Glaur keeks up throw a frostit ee
A keekin gless in the cauld sna bree
Inverurie's tashed an drookit
Better suited tae dyeuk than teuchit
In sypin oo the dubby yowes
Chitter like leaves on weety knowes
Insch wi its parks like weety brose
Its lang shanked lamps wi their snawy hose
Gaes by in a splyter o muckle draps
Its sheughs as soggy as bowls o saps
Strathbogie's by in a kirn o slush
Like barley bree is the sleety smush
Till braw an bricht as a preen stauns Keith
Like Bruce's sword wheeched ooto its sheath
Bring on the lichtenin, teem the lift
Keith bides stinch an it winna shift!
5.Twa Poems Owerset bi frae Gabriel Rosenstock's collection Portrait of the Artist as an Abominable Snowman, Forest Books, London 1989
(published in Lallans)
I open ma poem
I open ma poem tae bricht ferlies.
In come oranges an pee-the-beds.
Hist ye in, an dowp ye doon, an I'll be wi ye.
Intae ma poem comes
A bonnie snaa-beaked gowk.
Hist ye in.
A million gallons o sun.
I open ma poem tae aa that is,
Will be an wis,
Or cud be wrang.
Noo tae me comes
An auld powser,
In its moo, a doo's shank (sic things maun happen) .
Weel, dowp doon awhile,
Takk tent o thon gowk, there's snaa on its beak.
Fin space fur yersel atween oranges an pee-the-beds.
Far dae ye come frae, auld powser?
Far's the lave o the doo?
I open ma poem tae craiturs leevin an deid,
An ivy comes in, an brings wi it a waa.
The waa faas on the powser. This is a waefu poem in a wye.
In some neuk o the warld A waa draps on a powser.
I open ma poem again tae bricht ferlies,
Bit there is naethin,
Nae bricht ferlie left.
An it's pyntless tae say there is.
Wasp on a weet day,
Her wee voice
Throw a lace curtain,
Or its shadda.
Fresh bird keech
A fyachie fitpath.
Frae the lift's ink wal
In the blin chiel's glaisses, The settin o
On the girse,
Flooers in a vase
A kittlin walks throw
A bare gairden.
I haived a deid powser ower a hedge
Suddenty, autumn shooers,
Butterflee coories doon
Aneth a leaf.
Caa caa wioot devaul.
(NB.: powser' was ma grannie's name for a cat.)
7.Freedom o Speech
The fitbaa/cricket/snooker/golf is on
Gie's a break
Get oot ma face
I wish tae Christ ye'd grow up
Get oot. Find yer ain place
Hae ye nae pals tae meet?
Exams tae swot fur?
Or is't yer mission in life
Tae deave yer faither?
I wirk as wikk
Pit meat on yer plate...
Ye sit there bumpin yer gums
A waste o space.
Here's yer ma
The oracle herself
The keech that I've heard spew
Frae thon wummin's moo...
Yer entitled tae yer opinion?
Sae's Daftie Jock
Bit naebody pyes ony heed tae him.
8.Scots owerset o 'Marriage Song', a poem by Yehudah ha-Levi (1080-
114) , a Sephardic Jew, born in Toledo, Spain
Bonnie's ma doo, ma dearie,
There's none wi her compare:
Aye langed fur like Jerusalem,
As braw as Tirzah fair.
Shall she in tents unchancy
A gangrel body bide,
While in ma hairt wytes fur her
A biggin deep an wide?
The cherm o her beauty
Has rieved ma hairt awa:
Nae seannachie o Egypt
Had hauf sic pouer ower aa.
As the ay-cheengin opal
Wi mony glimmers glows,
Her face at ilkie meenit
New cherms an douceness shows.
White lilies, crimson roses
There blossom on ae stem:
Her lips, like reidest berries
Tempt mine tae gaither them.
Bi pitmirk curls shady
Her broo glents fair an pale,
Like tae the sun at gloamin,
Ahin a cloudy veil.
She's brawer than the day-star,
She makks the derkness licht:
Day in ma dearie's presence
Grows seven times mair bricht.
See here, a lonely luver!
Come, lassie, tae ma side,
That we'll be blythe thegither
The bridegroom an the bride!
Aathin in Crivie's fishie. The scunnered dug,
Face like a skelped erse, tail like rats' sookins
Is weirin thon ettin an spewed luik.
Even the washin wallopin like the waves
Dulse guffs in pulls like broth that's ten days auld
On ilkie secunt waa's a grinnin cat.
10.The Queen o Sheba's Sang
Wyled frae King Solomon's Sang o Sangs
Oh I am derk, Jerusalem
As tents on Kedar's plain
Atween my breists, King Solomon
Lies doon, ma luv, ma ain.
I am the rose o Sharon
The lily o the lea
Awak ye wins o mornin
An bring ma luv tae me.
He is a tree o aipples
Aneth his shade I sit
Amang his fruits an branches
The singin birdies flit
A lion amang warriors
His hair is blaik's the craw
His cheeks are beds o spices
Myrrh, frae his mou I draw
Ma luv is fine as merble
As fair as Lebanon
His een they flash wi riches
Like fishpuils o Heshbon
I'll be a pleisunt fountain
0 hinny an o milk
My wyme it shall awyte him
A field o corn an silk
I'll be tae him a palm tree
An aipple an a vine
Fur I am my beluved's
An Solomon is mine
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