Do Mo Mhàthair

Do Mo Mhàthair
Bha thus’ a’ sgoltadh sgadain
ann an Yarmouth fad air falbh
’s a’ ghrian shaillt sa mhadainn
ag èirigh às a’ chuan
’s an fhuil air oir do sgìne
’s an salainn ud cho garbh
’s gun thachd e thu o bhruidhinn
’s gu robh do bhilean searbh.

Bha mis’ an Obair-Eadhain
a’ deoghal cùrsan ùr,
mo Ghàidhlig ann an leabhar
’s mo Laideann aig an stiùir,
’nam shuidh’ an siud air cathair
’s mo chofaidh ri mo thaobh
is duilleagan a’ crathadh
siùil na sgoilearachd ’s mo thùir.

Tha cionta ga mo lèireadh
mar a dh’èirich ’s mar a thà.
Cha bu chaomh leam a bhith ’g èirigh
ann an doillearachd an là,
bhith a’ sgoltadh ’s a bhith reubadh
iasg na maidne air an tràigh
’s am muir borb ud a bhith beucadh
sìos mo mhiotagan gun tàmh.

Ged a nì mi sin ’nam bhàrdachd
’s e m’ fhuil fhìn a th’ air mo làimh,
’s gach aon sgadan thug an làn dhomh
a’ plosgartaich gun dèan mi dàn,
’s an àite cùbair tha mo chànan
cruaidh is teann orm a ghnàth
is an salann garbh air m’ fhàinne
a’ toirt beòthalachd don bhàs.
Tracey Herd

from Dreuchd An Fhigheadair / The Weaver's Task: a Gaelic Sampler, edited and introduced by Crìsdean MhicGhilleBhàin/Christopher Whyte (Scottish Poetry Library, 2007)

To My Mother
Herring you were cleaving
In Yarmouth, far from me,
That fierce salt sun leaving
The ocean, sharply turning
To blood on a knife’s edge
And that tang so strong
That it choked your speech
And your lips stung.

And I, up north, apart
Greedy for brave new words;
My Gaelic in its tidy charts,
My Latin a scatter of seabirds
That I map from my chair.
My coffee is strong and black:
The pages catch the sea air.
The sails take up their slack.

Guilt clouds my heart
To present and past worlds.
I would not like to start,
Like you, when the dawn unfurls;
To expertly cleave and tear
At each fish, without words,
With that savage sea roar
Drenching my skin with blood,

Though I do that in my way.
My hands too are bloody
As I grasp what the sea gifts me;
Silver fish slack-jawed with poetry.
I roll the watertight barrels away
Keeping only what is necessary.
Salt strips from frippery
As I lift life out from decay.

				
Tracey Herd

Tracey Herd was born in East Kilbride in 1968 and now lives in Dundee. She studied English and American Studies at the University of Dundee, graduating in 1991. From 1998-2001, she was Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Dundee.

She won an Eric Gregory Award in 1993, and in 1995 was awarded a Scottish Arts Council Bursary. Her first collection, No Hiding Place (Bloodaxe, 1996) was shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection, and her second collection, Dead Redhead (2001) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. The Single Girl was published by Bloodaxe in 2007. Her poems were included in Identity Parade: new British & Irish poets (Bloodaxe).

Read more about this poet