My Dawtie by Jane Burn
I am gone on the Husvik boat. I will bring back
combs for your hair, silk for a dress, pearls to swing
from the lobes of your ears, lace for the pale
of your heather-bone throat. Fear not. I will return,
come back to you and a small but fertile patch
of our own – buy stones to build around you.
Brick you into a home for us. Nothing here but stench
and snow as cold as your breasts in the byre
back home, at dawn – I rub my palms
on wind scoured wood, think of ridges on a ram’s horn,
think of good meat not skrott set adrift – its tissues fed
to the carrion throng. I hear the wind skirt the oil drums,
mouth the rivets, lick the paths of salted rust.
So many things made for hacking and flaying,
so many tools to carve pain, to whittle lard and bone.
I have skill – remember the coggies and spoons I made
for the sip of your mouth? How I watched with desire
the curve of your kiss upon morsels. I pare the flesh,
thin as bible leaves and picture you reading out loud,
hope your pages hold comfort – more than I find
in this stinking book of flesh. My bitten hands find heat
for a while but you cannot warm for long on the dead.
When I return they say there will be such spoil
that we shall burn our cruzie night and day – I think
I will choose not to snuff it out. I have filled myself
too many times with chill and dark – I have looked
into begrutten eyes and put them out.
(notes ed. DAWTIE = darling HUSVIK = whaling station in South Atlantic
SKROTT = carcasse or scrap meat COGGIES = small bowls CRUZIE = an oil lamp BEGRUTTEN = swollen with weeping, tear-stained)
Aubade by Anne Ballard
Your head is growing heavy on my shoulder,
your slow breath tells me you are sleeping now.
Gently I stroke the damp hair from your brow
and draw the quilt up as the night grows colder.
If only we could lie like this till morning
wrapped in the bliss we made, but soon the light
will creep like an intruder on the night
firing the dawn sky with its angry warning
to drive you from me, to your bitter life
where our concord is seen as treachery,
our harmony the cause of others’ strife.
We are in prison, when we feel most free,
those furtive meetings all that keep us strong:
sleep still my love, this peace does not last long.
Now I must be by Maggie Butt
scatter wisdom over myownhead
like an upturned bowl of rose-petals
name myself with sprinkled water
offer pie-and-mash advice
remember to lovemyself
pridepuff at my small achievements
my flocks of imperfections
The Longest Day by Roger Elkin
Not the heroics of John Wayne
spearing across D-Day beaches
while extras get blown to bits.
Not fish-face Robert Mitchum
leaping into the sea and wading ashore,
his rifle carried high to keep it dry.
Not Richard Todd, steel-eyed
and stiff-upper-lipped, revisiting
Not even Kenneth More trying to hide
behind a beard as Beach-Master Colin Maud
roaring “Get off this blasted shore”.
But hundreds of fameless men being strafed
in that vastness of sand and cloud
with nothing to hide behind but fear,
two planes raining bullets and noise –
wave after harrying wave –
the menacing, the menaced.
Watching that, you remember
standing stranded, exposed
in slow-motion monochrome
hour after hour and so alone
by your Dad’s hospital bed
your moment’s longest day.