The moon must be sick of being in poems –
always gripped by fingers of late honeysuckle,
always filtered in the lake through the jetty’s slats,
always silvering the flicked tails of the koi.
Always a dinner plate or mirror,
always a fingernail clipping, a grin.
The moon must be sick of being in poems.
Always the bright pin in the picture’s corner,
always looking in at the windows of middle class homes.
Always shoved above a bridge in Paris or Venice,
always an eyeball or symbol,
always a radiant woman, a bowl.
It’s also in the splintered windscreen of the crime scene
with its blots of blood. It’s hung over the pig farm,
streaking white across the silo’s cheek
and slanting through the lorry walls in blades.
It’s in every dented can at the landfill pit,
turning the tip to a shoal of dirty fish.
Never the buried skull,
never the gummed plug in the junkie’s sink.
Never the white cat under the truck’s wheel,
never the beached and stinking jellyfish.
Never the gallstone or the pulled tooth, of course.
Nobody wants to read poems about this.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2014. 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 2014 was Roderick Watson.
For about five years, I worked as a further education lecturer, and Creative Writing 101 was among the courses I delivered. Often, the students were young men who had very little interest in reading or writing poems: they were on the course because they needed an extra module to fill their timetable, or because they'd been told they had to attend. They generally had very little confidence in their writing and so tended to stick to well-worn ideas and images that felt safe. I did a lot of habit-breaking exercises with them: take a really, really common image that you see in poems all the time. Find a way to present it that makes it interesting and surprising again. Although I wrote this poem after I left that job, I guess this is my attempt at that exercise. For the record, it's nowhere near as interesting as some of the things my seventeen-year-old Sport Science students came up with! This poem is very much for them.