Aawhaur here is white,
sae cauld an white. No like snaw,
thir fower waas that haud me ticht
an steekit in, nor cloods neethur –
I’d no mind yon, snell braith
o the lift in baith – but naw,
naethin saft aboot them,
juist the haurd white o nae life.
I gove sae lang at ae space –
whit else tae dae? –
I’m seein the white o ma ain een.
Whiles a wumman comes ben –
the same yin? Could be twa, three,
I dinnae ken, mibbe mair, a hale team –
happit in plastic, white gloves, an maskit
like astronauts; they gie me white pills
wheemer at me wi white wurds;
the lest yin gied a white lauch
like crackit ice ahint the mask
whan I askit ‘Whit’s the score?’
‘Weel’, she says, ‘we’re no winnin yet,
but we’ll get there,’ an wuns awa,
me wunnerin whaur, whaur
wull we get tae? An when?
Wull it still be white, thon place,
or reid, like the bluid-brainches
ablow ma lids when I steek ma een
agin the knife o the ceilin licht
an dwaum o green birks up the brae at hame?
Or wull it be gowd, the gowd o yon lauch –
I mind it wis ma dochter’s – afore the warld turnt white?
About this poem
This poem was chosen by Thomas Clark as part of the Scottish Poetry Library’s ‘Champions’ project, a guest curatorship programme to help extend our national reach.
Thomas Clark says, ‘Scots has aye been a language that has attractit magpies. Frae MacDiarmid forrit (an back), the dictionaries o the Scots language hae aft been reived bi cannie makars in search o currency that’s yet tae loss its luster. There’s muckle tae admire in the poetry o Gerda Stevenson, but there’s twa things that aye lowp oot at me. Ane is the aptness o her Scots, the wey ilka wird is aye the richt yin, an the ither is the wey she infuses each wird afresh wi meanin, wi life. Scots – like ony language – can get worn oot. An gin a makar has ony job at aw, it maun shuirly be tae replace deid images wi livin yins, replenish the reserves that mak a language wirth the uisin. In a warld whaur we’re mair an mair accustomed tae seein oor language haunled rochly, wrung oot, chowed dry o meanin like a daud o auld chuggy, Gerda Stevenson continually airts oot weys o giein raither than takkin – polishin an settin her wirds like precious stanes, pittin them back in oor communal wird-kists in faur better condition than when she took them oot. ‘Care Home‘ evokes the sci-fi sterility o lockdoon in a warld drained o aw colour. The oorie white-on-white o a care hame room, straicht frae Kubrick; the nurses, visitors frae the cloods, or some ither faur-aff warld; the patient and her illness, an alien tae be quarantined, monstrous an alane.