The best First of all

The Memorial, Lochore Meadows (the meedies)

Yesterday was National Poetry Day and I had something on my list that could no longer be avoided – to read my poetry in public.

I woke in the morning and decided there and then it had to be done. To prevent me wimping out at the last minute, I emailed my intended participation to the organiser of the Scottish Federation of Writers’ poetry event that was due to happen in Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art(GOMA)library. All the way into town I psyched up, reminding myself that I had climbed the Inn Pin on Skye and hadn’t been this scared. What was I scared of? I was only reading, I wasn’t going to fall off a podium to my death.

The problem is that I suspect I have mild dyslexia, my reading is atrocious, my spelling even worse. Visions of me standing in front of the School assembly and stumbling through passages from the bible still haunt me and bring me out in cold bile. Now that I am writer, I find that reading my own work is even worse. Whenever I read out at my local writing group my throat closes up and I sound like a throttled chicken.

At the GOMA the show was in fair flow when I arrived. My two writing buddies Frances and Sarah came along for moral support and to make sure I didn’t bolt. As I sat and waited for my name to be called, I could feel my face and neck redden, this often happens when I am nervous. Then a strange calm came over me. This is my inevitability period when I know I will go the whole way. It happened to me as I sat in the car at the beginning of my driving test and it happened as I stood at the start of the Inn Pinn climb. I recognised this feeling and decided that I could do it. My name was called and I stood up in front of twenty odd people, I held a microphone tight and read my two poems. It was fantastic, I was so happy, I still am.

The theme of National poetry day was Work and being brought up in Fife I read two poems about the industry there. The first Cut Fingers is about the fishing industry, I explained how a fisherman’s jersey is knitted with individual patterns to make it easier to identify drowned sailors. The second poem Colliery Requiem is on my website and is about the closed pits on the Auchterderran Backbone seam in West Fife.

Here they are below, I hope you like them.

Cut Fingers

Cut fingers twist coarse yarn,
A new bride adds her history.
Bramble, moss, lover’s knot,
her family’s texture wovening.

Cut fingers mending nets,
salty, worn, stinging.
The beacon calls, guiding home.
Harbour walls embrace them.

Cut fingers casting off.
Storm brews then rages.
Hook their bodies, reel them in.
Life’s threads unravelling.

Colliery Requiem
Minto, come away, you’ve had a hard life,
your belly, ripped apart, with nought to show.
Your master tired of grafting,
searching for a prettier face.

Nelly and Mary you were raped in your youth,
became killers of children and men
You were treated like whores,
then cast aside on the heap.

Jenny Gray , are you there? Or lost in time,
To creep into the memories of breathless souls.
They loved you too much,
but to what cost?

Josephine, Oh queen, witch, volatile wench,
your fiery depth, the lure of all greed.
Ten honest men entombed,
on your Halloween.

Michael, conquered tides, held back the swell.
Rich beyond dreams, was justice ever yours?
Once the prize of the land,
now a fight beyond mortal men.

Frances, you were drowning, or so they said.
No good for the cost, a sacrificial lamb.
Keep your treasure locked,
and wait for resurrection.

Continuum, a back bone tired and destroyed.
Cruel death and disease replaced by depressions.
Community soul passed on
to other pursuits.

Memorial, raise your defiant head in the blistering rays,
shadowed in Benarty’s bulk, beyond the rising Loch.
Silenced, while children play oblivious.
The cage closes, sealed forever.

1 Comment

  1. Well Moira I would never have guessed how nervous you felt when reading if you hadn’t told me and then, after you had, I couldn’t stop noticing how nervous you were! Anyway, I’m glad you got up and did it. On the day I enjoyed Cut Fingers most but when I read both poems here, I realised I’d missed most of the second one. I enjoyed it much more on reading it in your blog than at the event and I don’t think that had anything to do with the way you read it on the day. Maybe some poems are better spoken aloud and some on the page. Or maybe I’m just not very good at concentrating for more than a few seconds at a time – who knows!Sarah


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