Census Matters (27 Scots Poems) Poem by Sheena Blackhall

Census Matters (27 Scots Poems)

1.Lumphanan’s Witches

Fair is foul and foul is fair
Lumphanan’s witches at their lair
At Craiglash bi the warlock’s steen
Echt weemin daunced wi Margaret Bean

Accusin them wis William Ross
Fa blamed the hizzies for the loss
O nine fat kye bi sleekit spell
Learned frae Auld Clootie’s lips himsel

Margret Clarke, bi deevilrie
Gart puir John Burnett quickly dee
Whilst Janet Lucas kept a threid
Tae wirk some hellish orra deed
Isobel Ogg used the Black Airt
Tae help her friens swick at the mairt

In the Tolbooth in Aiberdeen
Their tongues war lowsed bi witch’s preen
Bi thoomb-screw, duckin steel, sair-pressed
They aa tae witchin ploys confessed

John Justice the toon hangie led
Tae stakes, the witches, threwshed, ill-fed
Tae thrapple them, syne set the flame
Tae aa fa tried the warlock game

Fair is foul an foul is fair
Nae birds sing in the eildritch air
In Craiglash wid’s great warlock steen
Gin ye staun there, yer nae yer leen

2.The Duchess o Richmond & Gordon

The Duchess o Richmond an Gordon
Wi siller an lans wis blest
Bit Whiteash Knowe wi its Wyndin Wauks
Wis the airt that she lued best

Here bilberries growe freely
A capercaillie's treat
An at the tap the views rax oot
Far the Spey an the Heivens meet


Beach an pines an barbecues,
Picnics seals an bonnie views
Braw Roseile, the Moray Firth-
War defences, sanny earth

4.The Aipple

Sir Isaac Newton kent me weel
I am the frien o snake an Deil
Ma body draps at Simmer’s heel
I am the fruit o Eden

In Adam’s thrapple I’m the knot
An orchard is ma birthin cot
I hotter in the cider pot
I am the fruit o Eden

I’m tae the fore at Halloween
Fin bairnies sport aneth the meen
Reid chikkit wi a hairt o steen
I am the fruit o Eden

5.Shall I list yer faats? : Tae a Pit Bull Terrier on a Bus

Shall I compare ye tae a midden heid?
Ye are mair fooshtie an mair fu o flechs:
Yer leash is far ower lang fur sic a breed:
Ye fleg the passengers wi gurrs an pechs,
Ye are the Deevil’s kin, yer maister’s bling,
Fause gowd aroon his thrapple gars fowk cowk;
He thinks he’s Airchie, thon’s the comic thing
Bit ithers see a bully an a gowk:
Whylst ye, wi slivers hingin frae yer mou
Fartin awa eneuch tae choke a stirk
Wad chaw the leg frae brock, or dug, or soo,
Ye are his fier in ill-tricks in the mirk:

Sae lang as there are coorse cheils on life’s stage,
They’ll pick a pet that is aa teeth an rage

6.Dug Chiel

Dug chiel’s dowped on the street ootby a buikshop
Ain o Les Miserables. His luggit bunnet cairries
Sax month’s yird. His neb’s a plooky ootcrap
O boozer’s blisters. His shilpit, shargeret physog’s
An stibble chooks, are cross hatched lines o keech.

We winna pikk o the guff that wauchts upwin
It’s a stammygaster. His neives are blaik’s
The swypins frae a lum. A brunt-oot tabbie’s
Stukken tae his lips. Fowk coor frae him
Takk peety on the dug. Nae tyke sud hae
Tae lie on a shitten quilt. The stank
O strang an swyte’s an affront tae stanks.

Dug chiel’s finger nails cud growe hale tatties
‘Gie’s cheenge’ he prigs. ‘Takk peety on the dug.’
Nae fears. Twid ging on drugs. I’m nae a mug.

7. An Owersett based on Ballad bi John Clare

A faithless shepherd coorted me,
He reived awa ma liberty.
Fin ma puir hairt wis pure’s the dyew,
He cam an smiled an gart me grue.

Fin ma peenie wad hing doon,
Me he socht tho snaa blawed roon.
Fin wi shame ma peenie raise
He didna see ma dowie days.

Fin simmer brocht nae flegs tae fricht,
He cam tae guaird me ilkie nicht.
Fin winter nichts aa gurly grew,
Nane cam tae guaird me or tae lue.

I wish, I wish, bit aa in vain,
I wish I wis a maid again.
I doot I doot there’s nae remeid,
Fan will the green girse hap ma heid

8. Aiberdeen 2011

The chippies, the buikies, the shops an the sales
The parks an the banstan, the haar an the gales
The howfs an the bistros, the bollards, the docks
The malls wi a rowth o new troosers an frocks
The high-rise, the bakeries, the pye an display
The uni, the polis, heich waves wi their spray

The dug-keech, the taxis, tandooris, roch wins
The potholes, the cassies, the wynds an the bins
The seagulls, the sewers, the gairdens, the brigs
The scaffoldin. Wirkirs aff cauld ile rigs
The roondaboots, phones, an the lang taxi queues
The theatres, cinemas, billboords, an doos
The pizza huts, bottlenecks, sheddies an skips
The beggars in doorwyes wi frost-hackit lips
The benches, the roadwirks, the Dee an the Don
The statues, the bussies, the braw fitbaa grun
The joggers, the bloggers, the buggies, the rain
That stots aff the gutterin an rins doon the drain

The schools an the hospitals, larries an vans
The scaffies that wheech awa speecial brew cans
The hardmen, the junkies, the trains an the planes
The sheddies, the suburbs, the retirement hames
The offices, factories, businesses, streets
That are hotchin wi newspaper venders wi sheets
Tae tell ye the crimes an the sklaik o the toun
Fa’s chorin an muggin, fa’s hoose has brunt doon
The Sikhs an the Moslems, the Poles an Chinee
We’ve a wide-luggit creel for oor citizenry

9. Sheetin Hares bi Morven

Sodden up tae the gills in beer an fuskey,
They ride wi the windaes open,
Shotguns pyntin oot,
On a dawn o sun an birdsang.
Aa nicht they hae boozed an sang,
Braggin o weemin taen an cast aside

The bawd wis killt mid-lowp,
The win aneth its paas a corpse’s cushion
Shot in the heid, it lies like a teemed bottle.
Its glaissy een gap-wide, takkin daith in.

The sharger leaves the car tae scrape it up
It’s haived on the car flair, reid mou sypin dreeps
Still warm an saft, curled doonwirds in a grue

The loons are heich on bravado, on testosterone
The sun abeen is hett as meltin lard
On the heatherie knowe, the bonnie day is butchered
The loons’ spikk’s aa aboot the Setterday daunce
Fit quines they hae in their sichts
Foo they will wyle them, woo them, tease them
Ooto their draaers, as easy as ruggin fur
Frae the bawd’s hett hochs

10. The Queen oTatties

I hae won prizes…I am a tattie o distinction
This is ma time in the sun
Aneth the grun, I practiced fur celebrity
TV ads fur crisps, or Cookery shows
I hae luggit inno the claik
O wirms an nochtie craiturs
Like hornygollachs, mowdies,
Snailies, slaters.

I quately swalled in the derk
An coored frae the thocht o Blicht.
Passover Nicht o the Tatties ower in Erin.

I anely hae een fur you
Takk me. Takk me noo

Mash me, mell me wi butter
I’m a stoater. I am the Queen o Tatties
A Gowden Wunner.

11.An owersett in Scots o Fredman’s Song by Carl Michael Bellman
Fin there's siller for a drappie,
Nota bene: Rhenish wine!
An ma haun aroon her tittie,
Nota bene: An it’s mine!
Blytheness it is in ma hairt,
Nota bene: till we pairt.
Aye, the times are aa ower merry,
Nota bene: nae the best!
Vratches wint mysel tae beery
An the siller's rinnin faist.
Some feel free an safe frae hell,
Nota bene: bagatelle!
Let it aa complete its gyre,
Nota bene: make it stall!
Age will nae convert the fire
O ma deariel tae a troll.
Drink an beauty gar me flee,
Nota bene: till I dee

12. Heroin Blues(Updated Version of Cocaine Lil & Morphine Sue)

See them on the cassies in their zonked oot state
Chasin the dragon wi the pennies on their plate

Honey get a hit fur me...Honey get a hit fur me (Sung to Buddy have a drink on me)

Cocaine Kate said ‘I got nae shame
For yer nae a celeb if ye’ve got nae fame

Honey etc

Doon by the harbour lyin on her back
Donna’s earnin siller for her baggie o smack

Honey etc

Let the world gae hing, let the bairn gyang tae pot
Fin the poppies are a poppin an yer mammy’s lost the plot

Honey etc
His pride’s doon the pan an his quine’s on the street
Hoorin for the heroin tae keep him sweet

Honey etc

The dragon’s in the schemes far the junkies play
Fowk a-sookin on their methadone tae fill the day

Honey etc

Weel they say the crematorium gars auld men shift
But the smack-heids of the city are a-lichtin up the lift

Honey etc


Scolty is Gaelic for ‘cleft in the knowe’
Owerluikin Deeside & fair Banchory’s howe
Reid squirrels skyte like flames up the green pines
Burns fu o taddies tryst wee loons an quines
Tae play in the wids or climm up the knowe tap
Far the gowk sings ‘Cuckoo’ an the widpeckers chap
The weather can cheenge sae weir sensible claes
Tae daunder, tae picnic, tae reenge Scolty’s braes


Derk, wyndin pathies, brigs abeen the watter
Wheesht! There’s a roe deer. Dinna makk a clatter!

Steppin ben the widlan easy-fleggit deer
Three hunner year syne, coaches hurled here
Drivin doon tae Lunnon...Merchant, lady, lord
Cannie, for a cateran micht wyte wi drawin sword

Ghaisties flittin back an fore tae the curlin puil
Noo it’s a puddock’s paradise wi midgies for a meal!

15.Déjà vu, Littlin

Ma grandother’s like a new-fledged starlin’s littlin
Moo like a diamond, sikkin meat frae the shute
O the birdie’s beak.

Her reedy greet faas quaet, fur noo she’s sooklin
Ootbye the wizzent elm taps at the blearie windae

Sae mony ferlies fur new een tae see:
The curtains, fit’s agin them
The derkness, fit’s inbye it
The starnies, fit’s ayont them
The revelations wytin in the wings
O ilkie day

She lies in her mither’s airms, a noddin snaadrap
Her perfeck lips are weety like the dyew
I see her faither in her. Déjà vu.

16. A Soldier’s Frien ww1

Dinna tell me smokin’s bad for me
Bombs are bad
Craters are bad
Trench fit’s bad
Rattens, swalled wi human flesh are bad
Flech bites, trench fever, pyson gas
These are REALLY bad for me!
Hae ye seen a sodjer staun up
An wauk oot tae the enemy jist tae get killt?
Hae ye? Hae ye?
Or a sodjer deein slow o mustard gas?
Brunt an blistert, blin een stuck thegither
Froth frae his lungs bubblin up on his lips?

Dinna tell me smokin’s bad for me
Whyles, fit’s bad fur ye
Helps fowk thole Hell

17.The Social Wirker

The office brings nae respite
A rowth o files touerin up frae the desk
I share wi twa, three ithers.
Wires frae the laptop, the prenter, the scanner
Mixter-maxter, jummelt like spaghetti
The phone ay birrin, the radiator clunkin
Wintin bled.
My man, ay girnin aboot siller
Bills fur gas an electric, car an phone an meat
Bit yet he gyangs tae the howf fower nichts a wikk
An the coorse winter, blin drift, ice, burst pipes
The bairns pit hame frae schule bi lucky teachers…
This mornin I brunt the toast, the cat cowked on the bed
I’d a sair heid an the milk wis on the turn
Ma first client bedd in a High Rise flat
Baith lifts war brukken.
Tae him, (tae aa) I say ‘Fit’s wirst wi ye? ’
The client’s life’s a snorrel o cares an waes
Pitched inno the community frae the hospital
Wi a pyoke o peels he winna takk fur depression
Gin I’d a magic wand, I’d solve his tribbles

The ashtray reams wi tabbies.
He says he’s skint. The empties in the bin
Gie thon the hee-haw
His braith is soor, his claes are ripe wi swyte
He’s on the edge o gaun back inno care
I listen, takk notes, shakk ma heid an sigh
The steamroller o life brakks doon his yett

18.Tounser Seagull

I kick up stooshies an stramashes
I’m a toonser gull, a rapper, a mugger, a radge
Takk a swatch o ma iron wings, the bling
O ma skyrie neb. Ma breist is fite’s
A tin o emulsion peint
I can thole onythin ye can haive agin me
I swallae fish heids raa
I skitter keech ower baldie heids an caimb-owers
I teem a picnic bench wi ae hairse skreich

19.Park & Ride

Ilkie Setterday nicht, back wynds in lanely airts
Hae cars discreetly parked…nae side bi side
Somebody’s wife wi somebody else’s pairtner
Park & Ride.

20.Poem tae a Drivin Instructor

Aince I cud wirk the clutch, the brake, the throttle
There wis nae haudin me
I wis an arra, an erne, greased lichtnin
Till I skytit ma faither’s car alang the road
On its reef, its windaes brukken
Like a bairn’s wee stottin baa

Thon fair dang the win frae ma sails
I gaed frae vauntie tae feart,
Creepit on ice at a snail’s crawl
Fit on the brake. Larries an motors tootin
Ragin tae batter by in a wheech o stoor

I cud hear yer wird in ma lug, Mr. Donnelly
Ca cannie at the junctions. Dinna stall
Fag niver ooto yer neive, yer baldie heid
Shiny’s a glaiss bool, a boozer’s neb

It wisnae until ma mou struck the steerin wheel,
Bluid spirkin ower the wrack o steel, chrome,
Leather an glaiss, an ambulance, sirens skreichin
Ferryin ma bairn tae the ward fur brukken banes
That I kinna acceptit the fack:
Drivin isnae a skill that tholes an aff day

21.The Flech
I’m a flech. I hae ADHD
I canna sattle secunts on ma dowp
Bidin at peace tae me is purgatory
I’m a flech. I hae ADHD.

22. Een faistened wi Preens
An Owerset intae Scots o ‘Eyes Fastened With Pins’ by Charles Simic

Foo hard Daith wirks,
Naebody kens fit a lang
Day he pits in. The wee
Wife’s aywis alane
Ironin Daith's laundry.
The bonnie dothers
Settin Daith's supper brods.
The neebors playin
Fitbaa in the backyaird
Or jist dowpit on the steps
Drinkin beer. Daith,
Betimes, in a fremmit
Pairt o toun luikin fur
Somebody wi a coorse hoast,
Bit the address somewye wrang,
Even Daith can't wirk it oot
Amang aa the steeked yetts...
An the rain stertin tae faa.
Lang winny nicht aheid.
Daith wi nae even a newspaper
Tae hap his heid, nae even
A phone tae ring the ane dwinin awa,
Undressin slawly, dwaumily,
An streetchin nyaakit
On Daith's side o the bed

23. At the Hairdresser: Gaelic /Scots

Can ye dae it faist?
An urrain dhuibh a dheanamh sgiobalta?

Please hurry, I’m latchy
Dean cabhag, le’r toil, tha mi fadlach

I’m gyaun tae a gaitherin
Tha mi frithealadh co-labhairt

Nae ower muckle aff!
Na toir cus dhe!

It’s rainin again
Tha e sileadh a ris

Is it gaun tae get ony hetter?
Bheil e dol a dh’fhas nas blaithe?

I think I hae food pysonin
Cha chreid mi nach eil truailleadh-bidh orm

Are ye listenin tae me?
A bheil thu’g èisdeachd rium?

The watter’s ower hett
Tha an t-uisge ro theth

Takk a bittie mair aff the back
Thoir beagan a bharrachd far a’ chuil

Can I hae the bill?
Am faigh mi ancunntas?

Hae ye made a mistak? ?
An do rinn sibh mearachd? ?

After ‘Having Twins’, a drawing by Tracy Emin in the Scottish National Gallery

Ablow her doon-hingin breists
A wumman sits like a human pyramid.

She is twa thirds wame,
A vertical camel, hatchin

In her stappit uterus
Twa siblins warssle fur space
Moored bi leevin towes
Tae her raxxed placenta

Inbye their amniotic sacs
They cercle each ither
Wee astronauts safe in their mither ship

25.Le Temps Menaçant
After the painting Le Temps Menaçant, by René Magritte, in the Scottish National Gallery

The sea is haein a widdendreme
She is breengin an birlin,
Wirkin hersel up tae a lather

Her dwaum is o a fite torso
Sailin the lift
A heidless figureheid

Aywis she hears a dowie note
Like the hinmaist tuba on the Eirde

She langs for a teem cheer
Tae rest her tides on
The sea fa canna bide still
Rugged back and fore like a quine
Atween twa lovers

26.An Owersett in Scots o a Nippick frae Mythical Story, bi George Seferis

I waukened wi this marble heid in ma hauns
It wearies ma elbucks an I dinna ken far tae doonpit it
It wis faain inno the dream as I wis comin ooto the dream
Sae oor lives jyned an it will be an unca tyauve tae pairt them.

I luik at the een: neither open nur steekit
I spikk tae the mou that ettles tae spikk
I haud the chikks that hae passed ayont the skin
I hae nae mair virr.

Ma haun disappeared an cam back tae me bladdit

27.Luikin at the Corpse’s Intimmers

Luikin at the corpse’s intimmers,
The pathologist liftit the lid o the skull
An picturs o muirs an lochans scaled ower the table
A muckle salmon or twa lowped oot
Wi three bobbydazzlers o stags.

The hairt held the incubus o a granminnie
A wheen traiveller sangs
A dish o pottit heid
An a puckle o versies bi Clare, Heaney, an Burns

A Flemish pirate lowpit frae the wame
Follaed bi a sodjer wyvin a claymore

The lugs war fand tae be stappit
Wi birdsang an hinneybees

Cause o daith:
The oor-glaiss ran oot

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