knows what will emerge from this
split in the curly ash
of grain on the waney edge
contours of the border hills
and curious valleys
in the splice felled by the gale
with leftover heat
galaxies fly apart faster
you can see
stars beside a tree
Gillies The new collection of poetry by Valerie
Gillies, The Lightning Tree, is published by Polygon
in June 2002-05-28
the tick of dawn light
& feathered, it must be that the night
has tugged on the boat in which she slept, remote
I come tripping with neat
steps through the yellow corn and the green
dreamland and spew my energy over
the slivers of life in lonely rooms? I shake
them by the shoulder. Stir, awaken.
in my folds of darkness, russet-
bellied hopes wriggle. Unbutton the flounce
of starlight, stricken! And the mound of moulted dying
hump that mutes all singing, damn of all love,
do not give it dignity. Come.
she was Night who said all this
Who bent to me and gave me a kiss
And put into my empty arms
A fidgeting wood full of charms
forward, my tongue like a dog's
laps at the moon, full bowl of clung to
pleasure. Your pared down dreams
scream! Inside my Night's vocabulary,
stretch! Have vowels as velvet dragons,
syllables that spangle on the drapes of speech...
I was over the next
Piece of wonder, finding myself back with
Who I was to be, her owls came
To stab me. Oh then I slept
To be harvested. Round me, I was later told
Night folded gold and set the ticking
Clocks of a hundred years.
all with the desire to be free
have futures we sometimes cannot see.
is a poet (and hospital worker) who lives in Kirkcaldy.
Sheis a former Writer-in-Residence for Dumfries & Galloway
Health Care Trust. Forthcoming poetry collection 'The
Unseen Hospital' publishedby Kettleonia due out August
Aunt Marge lives on the edge
Of the village in her little white cottage.
had waved goodbye, handing a bouquet
To her brother
Hector over sixty years ago
With tears in her eyes and
Smile on her lips, when he went to the War.
never came back, though a telegram did
Saying what a
great hero he was. So he stood
Smiling on her dresser
in his smart uniform
And as a little boy on a bicycle
in a glass cabinet
In her chintz curtained living room
And she spoke to him every morning as she did
with whom she sat hand in hand
On a studio couch: she
in a floral dress
And he in his dark uniform with wings
Shoulders, both smiling hopefully for a future
With no War, when they would have married
If only his
plane had not crashed
In that village near the city,
far away -
The name of which slipped her memory
As did many things these days...
she told these two young men of what
She would be up
to and what she
Would buy, and what she would
messages for her milkman
Who was a good lad, bringing
To her door. She didn't go to these
with rows and rows of things
That set her head whirling.
The little things that she needed
Were at the corner
Her tea leaves in a box, her Robinson's
and marmite, digestive biscuits
And corned beef and
condensed milk in cans.
at night without blackouts
And sirens, she sat watching
Patterns of intricate flowers on her carpet,
of the exotic lands where
Her Hector and her Roger had
gone And now lay, mixed in the dust
While she remained
where they left her
On the edge of the village in the
Little white cottage, while the rest of the
and others moved on.
Fraser Widely published in poetry magazines, anthlogies,
and her own collections.in India and Scotland. She teaches
English Literature at the Open University in Scotland
and is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Edinburgh University.
mother must have been in her early forties when she
had all her top teeth taken out. I couldn't look at
her. She sat in the small leather chair with a bowl
of blood beside her. I think it may have been the blood
that upset me more than my poor mother's loss of teeth.
I wanted her to go away and take the awful bowl of blood
with her. To go away and grow new teeth. To stop holding
a blood-stained handkerchief to her mouth and telling
me, inbetween groans, to look after my own teeth.
sat on the floor with my back to her, playing with a
pack of cards. I was pretending to be the fishwoman.
The cards were my fish. The fishwoman had a cart which
she parked alongisde the post office every Tuesday and
Friday. Usually there were two boxes on the cart, one
of plaice and one of kippers. The plaice was my favourite.
The kippers looked brown and old. I couldn't imagine
them swimming. But I was as entranced by the dead plaice
as I was by the fishwoman herself.
was under the illusion that the fishwoman caught the
fish herself. I pictured her, in her old grey coat,
worn blue headscarf and grey, fingerless mittens, turning
her cart upside down and sailing it over the sea at
night, singing to herself and belonging to the sea as
much as the fish did, only unlike them, she was immortal.
fishwoman's hands, dealing with the dead plaice, had
the deft grace of a concert pianist. Her hands would
slither among the shining, sippery white bodies, pull
one out, slap it on her board, chop off head and tail,
slit its belly, flick out the bones and have the fish
wrapped in newspaper all in one fluent movement.
loved the dead fish as much as I loved the fishwoman.
The sheen of them. Their sea-coldness. Their still,
marble eyes, their freckled bellies, the minute, crisp
pleating of their bark-brown fins and tails. The erotic
slime of them. It was such a guilty love that I could
never eat one.
that afternoon, while my mother mourned for her teeth,
I pretended the cards were fish and slithered my hands
among them. What I really wanted to know was how the
fish felt on your hands. How cold they were. How slimey.
mother's one attempt to serve me fish only made matters
worse. 'Mind the bones,' she said. 'You could choke
to death on one.' The bones - it must have been an unfilleted
fish - were so tiny, fragile as the veins of a leaf
and as white as the flesh itself, that it seemed pure
good luck not to choke to death on a bone. I saw no
point in eating such life-threatening food.
with my back to my mother, I knew something terrible
had happened and that she would never be the same again.
It wasn't just her teeth she had lost. It was youth.
father already had false teeth. At night they each put
their teeth in plastic containers. They joked about
teeth. They said how wonderful false ones were and you
never had to worry about the dentist again. But that
was after you'd got used to wearing them and that awful,
ageing, gummy look before you put them in.
think my mother felt very alone that afternoon. She
sat with me for the minimal animal comfort another human
being could offer. It was a dreadful afternoon for me
too. For the first time I realised my mother wasn't
built to last. Anything could happen after teeth. Arms.
Legs. Feet. Ever larger bowls of blood. I kept my back
turned and went on playing with my imaginary dead fish.
I felt quite sure the fishwoman didn't have false teeth.
teeth was probably the nearest I got to my parents.
I never saw either of them naked. Sometimes I saw my
mother in her underwear. It was fierce stuff. More like
armour. A bra that almost came down to her waist and
a boned, pink corset. In time this was replaced by something
lighter, called a 'roll on', an item my mother was very
glad to roll off on a winter afternoon. The topping
to the armour was prettier. Lace-edged French (or cami)
knickers and sometimes a full length petticoat. My favourite
part of her was her upper arms - plump, white, soft
and always cool - on reflection, like the bodies of
because they were so rarely exposed, the bodies of both
my parents - or the glimpses I had of them - looked
pitiably vulnerable. You wished them fur.
The most I ever saw of my father's body was his pink,
rawly-loofahed legs when he was wearing his bath-robe
or sometimes a little fuzz of hair appearing through
the gap of his pyjama flies when the waist cord worked
of them hated to be seen without teeth. In time, my
mother had her bottom teeth removed too. She said that
was worse, but I think she was wrong. By the time it
came to the removal of her bottom teeth, she'd settled
for middle age.
Hendry has published poetry and prose for adults
as well as over 30 books for children, one of which
won the Whitbread Prize. She has been Writer-in-residence
for D&G Health Care Trust.
Once, my mother surprised me.
Can't quite remember the date,
though I know it was the last year
for the Queenshill Cup
on Carlingwark Loch.
waking to frost ferns
inside the bedroom window,
lighting a paraffin lamp
to stop the bathroom pipes
The loch froze, hard enough to support
the curlers and their granite stones, skaters,
sliding on ice made slicker still
and those who came
for the novelty
of walking on water.
I was surprised
when my mother
fastened on a pair of skates she'd borrowed
and glided away, a sudden stranger.
later, on a summer day in the park
I saw the same surprise
in your eyes
when I walked on stilts.
Smith is a writer and journalist based in Castle
Douglas. Her first book 'Before the Taliban', based
upon her experiences in Afghanistan, was published by
Inyx in 2001.
live by rivers
This wee country's water-veined from
coast to coast,
north to south, west to east.
Burns are blood-vessels,
arteries touching seas,
I have lived by rivers:
Swathe through Mungo's city.
Snake to Ninian's
Crosswash on Whitesands
will die near rivers,
moon whispering water harmonies,
moving monthly cycles
past autumn days,
watching those who flit base,
re-find them though shifted.
to die for.
Shores we'll die before.
Niven is a poet and writer based in Dumfries. She
was Writer-in-Residence for D&G Arts Association. She
is a widely-published poet in Scots and English her
most recent anthology is 'Stravaigin' published by Canongate.
child is asleep in the big bed
In the afternoon.
Against the light.
Silence is pulled down like a soft blind
Petals are falling soundlessly,
Or so it seems.
All's held in thrall.
Carpets glue themselves to the floor
And the fire
Tones itself down
To a quiet purr. Everything's pegged down.
I'm pegged down
By the child's powerful sleeping.
Neill lives in Dumfries.She is a former teacher
and has published a large amount of poetry and prose
in Scots and English.
from 'The Beauty Room'
just a short form,' her mother would lecture Celia whenever
she'd misbehaved, her painted-on beautician eyebrows
furled out of reach. 'Remember that. Short for Cecilia.
So you'd better be careful. Better watch out for the
missing bits. If you ever want to grow up, that is,
and become a full person.'
warning seemed to be uttered more frequently, recited
word by word and with a certain gusto, once Walter started
how on earth did you 'become a full person'? The way
her mother talked, it must be something deliberate.
Like thinking, or doing an exercise. Maybe it simply
meant covering page after page with those 'c's and 'i's
from Cecilia till she got cramp in her hand - plain
and spidery letters painstakingly drawn, or slipshod
scrawls like so many crescent moons, suns half-rising
on the horizon, guttering candles, organ pipes ... Maybe
writing out those letters would be enough and she'd
end up complete. A perfect adult specimen.
of course, would be to take the 'c's and 'i's from the
magnet alphabet on the fridge which was always dayglo-daring
her to compose some 'nice little message'. She could
put them under her pillow before going to sleep, pray
for a magic transformation in the dark, and when she
got up next morning, hey presto, she'd be whole. Like
only problem was the tooth fairy - whatever lay under
your pillow was hers. Not that Celia believed in such
kids' stuff any more. And yet, her tooth fairy couldn't
be trusted: sneaking in to leave a couple of pricky
pencils behind; then a rubber in the shape of a heart,
a curvy pink sweet-smelling heart that gave her headaches
and blotted her mistakes all over the page; and last,
outrage of outrages, fobbing her off with a dozen ancient
ink cartridges, sticky and faded-looking after being
kept through years of heat, thunder and rain and dry
brittle cold, the ink flowing onto the paper thickly,
in milky grey splodges the colour of old people's eyes
- nothing like the limpid green she'd asked for.
Celia decided on something altogether different. It
wasn't so much a decision really as a sudden insight.
She was undressing when she spotted her new orange top
where it had been dumped in the deep-sea shadows under
the radiator, turned and twisted and glowing faintly,
like a crushed sand star. She'd stopped dead, half in,
half out of her dungarees:
- she'd call herself Alice. ALICE! It was her name too,
wasn't it? Jumbled up but still her name, and with no
letters missing, starting slap bang at the beginning
of the alphabet.
told Lily next day as they were walking home from school.
Lily smiled and, with a glance towards the track where
some boys from secondary were doing long-distance running,
she said, 'AAAAALICE,' caressing the name with her tongue.
Then she laughed: 'In that case I'll be RUBY. Red-haired
RRRRRUBY.' For a moment her curls flamed and danced
in the early autumn sunlight, in sharp contrast to the
grey walls of the new ice rink they'd just passed and
which was to open in less than a month. And like dancing
flames they licked the side of Celia's face. No mention
of ruby lips, she thought; despite their secret games.
was a half-day. Lunch over and homework done, they had
the afternoon to themselves. They clunked about on stilts,
skipped rope and hula-hooped, shouting out their new
names all over the backyard, playing around with echoes,
accents, voices - their mothers', Walter's, Uncle Godfrey's,
Lily's father's, old Frau Gehrig's from upstairs - and
pretend-feelings (clipped chopped-up sounds for anger,
excitement or fear, slurred and slow ones for love,
threw their names at the sun and the swallows in the
sky. 'R-u-b-y! Ruuuuuuuuby! Ruby-by-by-by-by-by-by!'
the telegraph pole with the BEAUTY TREATMENTS - PRIVATE
SALON sign. 'Ali-ali-ali-ali-ali-ali-alice! Alice-ce-ce-ce-ce!'
They catapulted them over the latticed fence and into
the side street at cars, children on bicycles, at the
sour-faced woman with her yapping black poodle from
the apartment block. 'Ru-ru-ru-ru-ruuuuby!' 'Al-al-al-al-al-al-al-ice!'
them like balls down the slope at the two closed garage
doors. Across the yard and into the kennel which had
been empty since Charlie's last trip to the vet's in
spring - 'Rrrrrrrrrrrrrruby!' 'Alicccccccccccccce!'
'Rrrrrrrrrrrrrruby!' - flustering the wild grasses that
thrived in the tarmac cracks and narrowly missing the
border of sunflowers and long-stemmed roses.
a balcony door squeaked above them, then Celia's mother
appeared round the corner from the Beauty Room and leant
over the window boxes of pink geraniums and white petunias
suspended from the kitchen balustrade. Her eyebrows
had been freshly shaved off; it was her client-free
afternoon, reserved for her own personal beauty treatments.
Alice? ... Now who could that be?' The lumps of naked
skin seemed to be drawn halfway up her forehead.
'Oh, it's nothing, Frau Roth. Just a game.' 'Well, a
game's not nothing, Lily, I wouldn't say that. Nor would
your mum now, would she? Games are fun, aren't they?
Good games, good fun. And I like having fun!' Her smile
was like a bruise. 'So, won't you tell me, Lily? There's
a pretty girl ...'
with persuasiveness, the voice asked to be stroked and
petted, and Celia knew her friend was going to fall
for it. Ten years old and already menstruating, yet
so easily fooled by flattery, it just didn't bear thinking
about. Already Lily had taken several steps towards
she squinted upwards, 'when we play this game I am Ruby.
It's because of my red hair, and Mum's got that lovely
ring with a ruby. And ... and she -' here Lily looked
over to where Celia had been a second ago, only now
she was gone, '- she -' emphasis trying to make up for
absence '- is Alice. Not in wonderland, though. Never
that, she says.'
her hidy-hole inside Charlie's kennel Celia saw the
puffy brows glisten. She felt laughter arch above her,
like a cat about to spit.
'Just you watch you don't call her MALICE, Lily. MALICE
is the full version, you know.'
was the gleam of mother-of-pearl as a hand sliced the
air, wagging a finger. Then more laughter, loops and
loops of it that dropped right round the kennel and
got tighter all the time. So tight Celia had to cover
her ears, close her eyes.
pictured her mother back in the Beauty Room. Her face
would be almost touching the cool silver sheen of the
wall-length mirror, pulling away every so often when
her breath became too hot and misted the surface. Her
fingers would be probing the swollen skin, tapping it
gently, gently, their tips soft and fluffy with her
favourite Magic-Pink cream.
squeezed her eyes shut harder. As hard as she could.
Then harder still.
Claire is Swiss. THE BEAUTY ROOM is her first novel.
Her book of stories, INSIDE~OUTSIDE, was shortlisted
for the Saltire First Book Award.
are fresh words
on the old stone of time.
Here, silence honours you,
here now, the earth turns,
the sun beats, the rain sings.
are not adrift
among the wheeling constellations
held by the hoop of love.
as the ring of standing stones,
prophetic as a snow-ring
round the moon,
your vows well when laughter
is the wine between you
when night lies like a bolster
down the middle of your
the cold shoulder of the hill
always afford you shelter.
May the sun always seek you
however dark the place.
who are wordless know
thorns have roses.
when you go from this day
the burnished stars go with
you go forward from this day,
the love that grew you
grows with you
marriage is struck,
iron on stone, hand in hand.
Paisley is a poet, playwright and prose-writer,
award-winning in all three. She lives in Falkirk and
won a Creative Scotland Award in 2000.
band, he says,
fae the Faroes -
nae the Egyptians, y'ken,
the isles -
he thinks I'm the kind of girl
who'd hold those Pharoahs
uppermost in my mind.
He must register
my place of origin
yet it's sailing by,
moving slowly north,
losing its identity . . .
About those islands,
cast off the mainland . . .
Where are we going?
captain - on the Pharos - said
you'd to run with the
rough weather repels,
the sound of their names
hauls us in:
Auskerry, Out Skerries, Fetlar, Unst,
Westray, Papa Stour, Yell -
no place in the sun.
the sound hauls me in.
band from the Faroes?
Artist, researcher in drawing/dance. Moved north to
Aberdeen: first poems,short stories, text-based installations.
Moved south to D&G: Creative Education residency, currently
based in Dumfries.
Made The Sky
made the sky for us on Monday. It was huge. It filled
up the whole room and we had tae squeeze intae the corners
tae gie it mair space. It was soft tae touch but some
of the grey bits were wet and made your hands cauld.
The blue bits were nice but, and the fluffy clouds like
a kitten's tail. The sky is a lot heavier than you'd
Tuesday she brought a giraffe tae school. It sat on
a chair and weÕd tae ask it questions like What do you
eat? and What do you do with your neck when you go tae
sleep? It had really long eyelashes. I thought it was
a bit shy.
Wednesday she got us tae chase rainbows. They were everywhere,
hiding in the corners of windae panes and at the bottom
of a vase. There was even one in Maria's eye. But when
you tried tae catch them they disappeared so you had
tae keep dead quiet and dead still, then they stayed
and you could watch them. Richard of York Gained Battles
In Vain. Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet.
I like Indigo best. In di go.
Thursday we went tae the moon. It wasnae green like
they say in the books - it was silver. It was hard tae
walk on the moon even wi our spaceboots on. Your legs
felt dead heavy as if you were walking in water. I was
glad tae come back.
Friday when I pulled doon my pants tae go tae the toilet
a star fell out of them. It must of been from when we
went tae the moon. I gave it tae Miss and she put it
on the wall.
day Miss took off our sad faces and gave us happy ones
tae wear instead. I wore my happy face hame and my daddy
said Wipe that silly smile off your face. And I took
my hanky out and started tae wipe my face and he said
Who do you think you are? Go tae your room.
sat on my bed for a while then I went and opened the
wardrobe, pushed the clothes aside and rummled intae
the very back of it, but I couldnae find the door that
takes you away intae another land like the one in the
story. So I just sat in the wardrobe wi my blue coat
over my face. I must of lost my happy face somewhere
in the wardobe because when I brushed my teeth the night
I couldnae find it. Maybe Miss will give me another
Donovan Winner of the 1997 Macallan/Scotland on
Sunday short story competition and a Canongate Prizewinner
in 2000. Hieroglyphics, her collection of short stories,
was published by Canongate in 2001 and her novel Buddha
Da is due to be published in January 2003, also by Canongate.