Four Glasgow Poems - Poem by Sheena Blackhall
1. The Gory Bells (Gorbals)
Folk shunned the lepers, at their coming, fled,
Hearing the ringing of the gory bells
When those poor creatures walked like the undead
From their pollution, healthy people sped,
Who'd want to touch the hands that rang the bells?
Who'd stand in their shoes, the accursed undead?
In cut-off colonies, they made their bed
Nothing brought solace… prayers, nor pills, nor spells
Their stumps of limbs brought terror, horror, dread
Forced to seek alms, by scraps and pity fed
To drink from puddles or from sour wells
This blight struck down both high-born and low-bred
The Bruce himself was leprous, so men said.
Who knows what curse or perverse different hells
Unleashed when Comyn at the Altar bled?
Many would chose a quicker death, instead
Of leprosy, its sores, blind eye that swells
Better a dagger, poison, bullet to the head
Than tottering forward, with a feeble tread
Knowing the dreadful fate that lies ahead
2. Glasgow Rap
Tolbooth steeple: Art, The Burrell
Drouthy's Bar: Hampden Roar
Lettuce Eat: Buchanan Street
Armadillo: The New Hydro
The Botanics: ferns, organics
Curlers' Rest: Tennent's best
The Style Mile: round Argyle
James Kelman: River Kelvin
Orange order: Rangers Banner
Steamie Days: George Galloway
R.D.Laing: Rob Coltrane
Gartnavel: Manny Shinwell
Eddie Morgan: Gritty Govan
Gorbals Patter: Doon the Watter
Strathbungo: St Mungo
Nitshill Craws: Pollockshaws
Broomielaw: Parkheid baa
Sauchiehaa: Barras staa
Heilan Lilt: Castlemilk
Drumchapel Close: Easterhouse
Sighthill Scheme: Rangers team
Alasdair Gray: Milngavie
Benno Schotz: Clydesdale docks
Thomas Lipton: A.J.Cronin
R34: Donald Dewar
Merchant city: Irish ditty
Stanley Baxter: Jack Webster
Gordon Ramsay: Lorraine Kelly
Joseph Lister: Gregor Fisher
Liz Lochead: Kennishead
James McAvoy: Tom Docherty
Babbity Bowster: Firewater
Bar Gandolfi: Booly Mardi
Maggie May: Brass Monkey
Glasgow City: gallus, witty!
3. Organ Recital at Kelvingrove Museum
Her hair's dyed Tom-Thumb red
Her slide is a trapped earwig in its strands
She waves to giggling friends
Deaf to the fanfare and processional
Continuing a crescendo full of chatter
Wagner's accompanied by speak of baby's buggies
Picnics, a rotund tourist swathed in pseudo-plaid
She texts, she films, she snaps.
‘Look, I am here, listening to a wonderful recital'
Another place, another day, another organ
My brother poured music into you
Till you swam in its dark juices
Pulling out all the stops
4. The Floating Heads (Kelvingrove Museum)
Maybe they smoked clay pipes, ploughed fields,
Kissed babies. Combed black hair or fair
They twirl, sad and happy, foolish and wise
Like white stars, high, disembodied heads
Look up to the roof where they hang in silent limbo
Clouds of faces like swinging cathedral bells
Did music issue from those severed heads?
Were they seamen, senators, showmen?
No laughter's heard from the grinning, silent, mouth
Its past and its walls have dissolved
There is no sound but the patter of feet below
Or the hum of the night thermometers
Solitary, bewildered, they have forgotten what they were
Memories have spilled like sand from their skulls' cavities
They revolve in silence, white, grotesque and grave,
Unable to weep or scream. They haunt the museum,
Unearthly as unicorns stepping between black trees
In these back- lit faces gyrating like Sufi mystics
Do day-dreams bubble up, visions and oracles?
Where were their childhoods?
Which hearse bore them away?
Their souls remain to unsettle us
High in their strange universe
Hanging like rare and translucent fruits
In their airy space.
Mind and body have gone their separate ways,
Like chopped aristo heads in gory baskets
5. The Macnab (Kelvingrove Museum)
Six feet three, with debts as huge as himself
Francis Mor was a gambler, drinker,
Lover of women and life. His still
Produced a whisky, fiery, strong,
Drunk from a massive jug he called ‘The Bachelor'.
A humourist, he kept a dummy
Hanging from a tree, to frighten
Would-be creditors away
His bastard children overran the glen
Once, he proposed to a lady with the promise
Of the finest burial lair in all of Scotland
At Innes Bhuide. His suit was declined.
He governs the canvas, bold as
A capercailzie, his badger sporran
Fierce on his fertile loins
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