Dark, the days when the ships came slowly in,
Carrying the baggage from the old past,
Old love letters, promises long since past.

Icy cold it was that winter morning,
Thick fog blurred the ship mast
The ship humped in like a hurt already cast.

You had to go and pick it up. You pushed in,
Signed the slip for your wicker chest,
And trudged the roads and miles back west,

Carrying your past on your back, late morning,
Like an animal carries what it needs to its den.
The old loch at your side, lapping: Ye ken

This – it is not as heavy it might be.
You step to your small house in the new light.

Jackie Kay

from Life Mask (Tarset: Bloodaxe, 2005)

Reproduced by permission of the publisher.
Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay was born and brought up in Scotland. She has published five collections of poetry for adults (The Adoption Papers won the Forward Prize, a Saltire Award and a Scottish Arts Council Book Award) and several for children. She was awarded an MBE in 2006.

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