Staying In

Staying In
I watch the city shrug its clothes back on.
An appaloosa spatter gathers scent
that hits the brain the way it hits a lawn:
it quenches, hard as mint. I think it meant
to come inside, but only leaves a note
in droplets on the door; at Hogmanay
it settles in the lungs and in the throat
and whispers too a hush of seaside spray
that sweeps below the ribs and keeps its snow
flakes back from hopeful tongues. I’m breathing when
the rainsmell pours my throat a dram, and so 
I open up the window wider, stand again
here in our cloud and wincing, hats and boots,
a pearlish weeping reaching for the roots. 
Charlotte Runcie

from The Salt Book of Younger Poets, edited by Roddy Lumsden & Eloise Stonborough (London: Salt, 2011)

Reproduced by permission of the author.
Charlotte Runcie

Charlotte Runcie is a former Foyle Young Poet of the Year and winner of the Christopher Tower Poetry Prize, and has a pamphlet, seventeen horse skeletons, published by tall-lighthouse. She has been published in magazines, including Magma, and anthologies, including the Salt Book of Younger Poets  (2011) and Be The First To Like This: new Scottish poetry (Vagabond Voices, 2014) and is former editor of the Pomegranate poetry e-zine. She was born in Edinburgh, and graduated from Cambridge University with a First in English Literature. She now writes for The Telegraph

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About Staying In

This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2011. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2011 was Roddy Lumsden.

Editor's comment:

The youngest poet in this year's selection, Runcie has recently returned to Edinburgh (having grown up partly in England, partly there) after study at Cambridge and a spell in London. This seemingly traditional poem (a sonnet about snow) succeeds by being surprising from the off – the weather is 'an appaloosa spatter' which quenches, and this set of odd touches continues through to the unusual ending (this is zeugmatic parataxis, I believe!) with its curious list announced by a clever shift of metre, the extra foot in line 12 breaking up the pentameter pattern.

Author's note:

I wrote 'Staying In' when I was missing Edinburgh while away at university one January. It was raining outside and I was writing a dissertation about Romantic sonnets, when it occurred to me that the rain in South-East England felt very different from how it is in Edinburgh. I was obviously reading a lot about sonnets for my course, and I was very interested in how they work and their possibilities. It's still a form that fascinates me – it can be a useful pivot for balancing concrete and abstract, and overlaying several different ideas or places at once. Sonnets also reflect how I think about Edinburgh at Hogmanay: a balance of stark architecture against fireworks and unpredictable weather, with a slightly sad, folky booziness seeping through the buildings as the year turns. I hope this poem also makes a structural glass window to look through and see Edinburgh from a distance, the way it was to me at university as I set an imagined idea of the city over the reality of a rainy English afternoon.