- Red neon burns
on brickwork: Tyres & Exhausts.As if we didn’t know.
- The hunt’s livener
outside the Tontine.A trail of port in the snow.
- A scarecrow’s been out
all night. This the revelation:all flesh is grass.
- On April’s hillside
houses from the rivernew-roofed like pagodas.
- In May’s milder light
old men, keeping an eyelet bowls run off and play.
- As daylight drains
boys fling themselves from the pier:now, in eternity.
- Fair Saturday night. Clyde Square.
A gap-toothed grinis strung between the trees.
- Shoulders red in the sun.
White meat turned on the girdlelike Saint Blaise.
- Rows of rotting timbers
wading in, but summer’s fleethas slipped anchor.
- Regulars snug with pints
rolling their ownmetaphysics. Marine Bar.
- Cartsburn Street. An orange sky.
The guy’s nodded offin the inferno.
- The Royal at dusk:
souls on top of souls.In the north, in hoc signo.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2005. 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 2005 was Richard Price.
Reading Raymond Friel’s poetry there’s the recognition of his acute observation, of his visual lucidity, and the kind of spiritual play he has with figures within a real but heightened landscape. Here the scenes are from a west coast Scotland, the Renfrewshire where urban and rural life are lived very closely together and where the seasons, as recognised in the calendar form (which also allows the iconic brevity), intermingle experience on the scale of Nature contrasted with the more built-up environs (with more than a hint of decline).
‘Dream Calendar’ sprang from an émigrés’s mailbag. Every January my mother sends me a copy of the Greenock Telegraph calendar. One year, when I was particularly keen on poem sequences, I saw the potential for a poignant project. Unlike most of my poem sequences, which collapse half way through leaving me with one or two remnants, this one made it to completion. One bonus of my perseverance was a drift away from the literal in the Tele’s calendar to the more dream-like and resonant images of the poem.
I like the discipline and compactness of the haiku and since the sequence was based around the seasons I thought the form was even more apt. In the sourse of writing it, I began to hear rhymes, or rather dubious half-rhymes. I worked them up a bit more so that the haikus can also be read as couplets of sorts. For further information I would recommend a day out in Inverclyde and an evening in the Marine Bar, real or imagined.