Poems: 'Opal' and 'Mrs Maclean', published in New Writing Scotland 41


(twenty-four Years)


Luing cattle follow you, bellowing their brindles and sheer reds up a hillside. The bull heaves: flanks measuring the gravity of each step. Muzzles run and cows call throat-water sounds. Hooves sink and bones lever this whole of hide and milk and muscle. Calves gather, surge forwards light in their eyes and feet. In a lull things happen: the bull raises his head and lets pheromones pour across his gums; calves throw their weight at udders, come up white-mouthed, frothing. The air is raucous with trodden bog myrtle, fresh cow shit, sunshine. Clegs bite, I swat my skin, breathe it all in. I remember, remember, before I forget –



that way you look back at your cows

how your t-shirt pins your clavicles

makes me want to start all over




Mrs Maclean


Her memory is mostly updraft, embering
eighty-three years of nature’s gleanings,
such as knowing-fine that often-as-not
October’s nettles are by far the fiercest

but last night a toad circled the house,
he poisoned her sense of home
and today she misplaced a whole turnip,
has looked in all the obvious old places

is still looking now by brittle moonlight
keeping a beady eye out for drag-marks
and toe-dabs of a predating toad, 
the coppered stare and deft tongue. 
Her memory is mostly updraft, embering.