1. A Glass of Cold Water, Mid-Afternoon
Some like it hot, after dinner, but poets know their
preference: A house at home in Arctic winds in
the outbreak of war, the North Sea when it was
the German, spike-helmetted, silver and black,
glittering (ever the best in uniform, the Nazi sky
and ocean, inhumanly and humanly unmerciful). And
you’re there trying hard, doing what you can to help
the listed poems escape. Weather is one thing,
daily, accumulating change. This is another: this
is the climate. Set yourself against it: the words
lean on the window-panes and rattle their frames
like iron bars; night and the stormtroops lean in.
2. Air Salt Stone
Benign on the inlets and islets of inside, of
Langerhans, the warm sun shines for a long time
each and every day, on all the ‘corrugations’ and
the ‘coigns’. Each word is a delicate finger-tip’s
print tracing gently with pressure on each turning
shape, the stones themselves mere metaphors for
these attempts to charge them with a meaning.
Night earns it, but, day brings it, sometimes. Not
every day. All every day will bring is, mushrooms,
mackerel, washing-up, good water from the well.
But some days like that sunshine, touching, lat-
erally, over all: inside, out, and there, benign.
3. Valda and Michael
I see her hands and arms, the strengths in bone
and muscle, her fingers round the string run
through the gills of sillocks, her clothes coarse
and warm, her independence, guidance, giving,
glee. Her laughter, lips, her voice. His voice,
His march of childhood, sheer Shetlandic
balance, care, assertiveness, set in a world
where shelter is less frequent and more welcome,
the edge never easy but ubiquitous, the crash and
cry of gulls’ flight, waves, time marked, ferries
booming horns away, bells ringing into all the
horizons opening out and closing in to deadlines.