July 6th, 2006



I've wanted to go to Scotland ever since I can remember. I've read book after book after book about it and its history and its famous people, and it draws me thither like a call from home. Sometimes I wonder if I lived there once or more, in another lifetime, or in a dream; that frisson of recognition in the descriptions and photographs of a place I've never been. Now that I'm soon to be going there, I worry somewhat that it won't live up to my expectations, the anticipation of so many decades. However, deep down, I know I won't be disappointed. The following 2 poems were written by Scottish poets, both contemporary ones, both women.

The Creel
by Kathleen Jamie

The world began with a woman,
shawl-happed, stooped under a creel,
whose slow step you recognise
from troubled dreams. You feel

obliged to help bear her burden
from hill or kelp-strewn shore,
but she passes by unseeing
thirled to her private chore.

It’s not sea-birds or peat she’s carrying
not fleece, nor the herring bright
but her fear that if ever she put it down
the world would go out like a light.


Small Female Skull
by Carol Ann Duffy

With some surprise, I balance my small female skull in my hands.
What is it like? An ocarina? Blow in its eye.
It cannot cry, holds its breath only as long as I exhale,
mildly alarmed now, into the hole where the nose was,
press my ear to its grin. A vanishing sigh.
For some time, I sit on the lavatory seat with my head
in my hands, appalled. It feels much lighter than I'd thought;
the weight of a deck of cards, a slim volume of verse,
but with something else, as though it could levitate. Disturbing.
So why do I kiss it on the brow, my warm lips to its papery bone,

and take it to the mirror to ask for a gottle of geer?
I rinse it under the tap, watch dust run away, like sand
from a swimming cap, then dry it - firstborn - gently
with a towel. I see the scar where I fell for sheer love
down treacherous stairs, and read that shattering day like braille.

Love, I murmur to my skull, then, louder, other grand words,
shouting the hollow nouns in a white-tiled room.
Downstairs they will think I have lost my mind. No. I only weep
into these two holes here, or I'm grinning back at the joke, this is
a friend of mine. See, I hold her face in trembling, passionate hands.


More wonderful poetry can be found over at Poetry Thursday