Wife to Noah

Wife to Noah
I didna speak
  whan it bleetert doon. 
Ma man wis gey taen up wi' getting us
sortit, an' it wis fell lang afore we had
the bastes in an' the fowl settled.

I didna speak
  whan the watters spewed
ower ma rigs o' corn an' doon the street
intae ma hoose amangst ma rugs
an' the bonny things I had fae ma mither.

I didna speak
  whan I heard ma frien
Becca battrin at the howe o' wir boat,
her bairn in her airms, yowlin like een
o' the damned o'Hell. We had linkit
doon the years fae bairnie tae wife. 
Ma bonny hinnie, weel-hertit Becca.
I clappit ma haunds tae ma lugs
an' flung ma airms aboot ma laddies, 
   but still I didna speak

I didna speak
  whan the lift grew black an' blacker
an' there wis naither muin nor sun an' the cries
that had been aa aboot us wir smoored. 
Nae soond on that black sea but the doonfa, the dreep,
the plowt, the pish-oot o' grey watter on grey watter.

I canna speak
   o' the things on the watter
as the days drave on – swollen an' blae,
wi the sea-maws skirlin an' pickin, skirlin an' pickin.
Syne whan the well-heid dried an' the watters sank, 
the laund, oor bonny laund, slaich an' slairy
wi' black glaur,
   an’ oorsels alane.

But whan I gang the low road on the hinmaist day
an' I climb the steps for my tryst wi' God
I will look the Almichty in the face –
  an' I will hae ma say
Eunice Buchanan

published in Markings, volume 30, 2010

Reproduced by permission of the author.
Eunice Buchanan

Eunice Buchanan was born and brought up in Arbroath, and uses the medium of the Scots tongue which flourishes there for her poetry. 

Read more about this poet
About Wife to Noah

This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2010. 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 2010 was Jen Hadfield.

Editor's comment:
When the editors of Markings asked Tom Leonard for a tip-off of a new poet who deserved to be better known, he suggested Eunice Buchanan. In his web journal he describes her Scots as 'dealing with things grasped in the hand, seen with the writer’s own eyes, heard with her own ears, a culture lived: not a language encountered firstly in book or dictionary.'
In this poem, Noah's wife declares 'I will hae ma say.' Buchanan is adept in the sophistications of implication and apprehension that are particular to spoken language and therefore precious to poetry: the dread of the unspeakable thing and the contrasting compulsion to speak, the steady crescendo to the fifth stanza's queasy rhythmic climax.

Author's note: 
In the old Miracle plays, Noah's wife was often portrayed as a scold – perhaps with good reason. In the Biblical story she hardly exists and we can only assume that she was not party to the communication between Noah and the Almighty. It is not hard to guess that she would want to know the reason for all the destruction and perhaps put foward her own view on possible alternative actions.

The questions that are posed by the poem are those that mankind (and womankind) have always asked of an all-powerful deity when faced with earthquake, flood and disaster.