Happy is the man who knows that little is more than enough.
He is deaf to the hindrance of plenty.
He herds, with the crosier of his mind, all his eggs in one place.
Each a bonnie blue phoenix, they bide their time for him.
He commends their worlds to light.
He fastens their teguments with the sphere of his experience,
he knots each entire with a pearl at its pole.
He prepares and polishes glass mansions
for them to nest, he nudges them home
as if they were orphan patches of snow.
Their law is his delight.
He burnishes their skies to rise without cumulous,
he rinses the colours of their rainbows, he bevels their anxieties,
he scales the mole-hills of their volcanoes.
Every one for him will flourish, as sweetness in a desert,
as wrens in spring. He preserves their small peals of self.
They are whirlpools, clustering at his touch,
he winds their orbits, not one is set squint,
he pilots their kingdoms to scroll through the elements.
He pastures them amongst the flowers of Munros,
he hides them in the branches of olives.
Happy is he who knows that little is more than enough.
His raw bracts will prosper a cream of catkins.
He is a shepherd, his sheep are his eternities.
About this poem
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.
Collaborative books between artists and poets often fall short of expectation. Dawn Wood’s recent collection works well for me since she seems not to have strived to make the poems work conventionally (in terms of linearity and resolution) away from the paintings and photographs (all concerned with genetics) which accompany them. Having said that, some of the poems are wonderfully strange, removed from that context. This anaphoric (and indeed euphoric) poem is more of an introductory piece to the ‘photograph poems’ and is less reliant on an image.
I’d asked my friend, Bill Ritchie, one of the scientists who produced Dolly, the cloned sheep, for some photographs of genetically engineered animals to write about. I wanted to set the work in a universal context, making psalms to depict the joy and sadness that lies behind all our endeavours. It was springtime when this poem came, and I love the idea that the creative urge is held in the smallest of living examples.