He went directly and unhurried and scanned the smattering.
Wingbit snagskin throatlap furthew clawlid eyespit oarfire.
Oarfire? No, that’s just dreams talking. Pure dreamtalk.
But sinew and pinion, yes.
Scale and ferrule, yes.
Printflake. printflake. printflake.
And he simply upped them one by one
and cradled them eachwise in his hand,
and stroked them whole and hale.
And every single sundered heartbeat struck.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2013. 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 2013 was David Robinson.
Many of the poems in Jim Mainland’s excellent collection are offered as tributes to other poets. This one isn’t, although behind it I hear echoes of Heaney’s North. I love the way in which ‘printflake’ melts away on the page and ‘oarfire’ – so close to Orpheus, so close to Shetland’s Viking history – is challenged as the poet lies down in the word-hoard and dreams the perfect, miraculous poem.
I don’t want to contaminate anyone’s reading of ‘Miracle’ so I won’t say anything about my particular take on the poem. What I can say is that the poem is unusual for me in that it was recycled from the end of the first chapter of a novel I was writing. The language has a slightly archaic feel to it, and that is because the novel was set in an indeterminate time, and was vaguely dystopian. I had adopted a persona and this particular voice freed me from the inhibitions I had when I tried to write it in a more traditional way. I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with different mutations of language and variants of expression, mainly in order to find greater authenticity and to attempt to evade the shackles of language, or Standard English, at least. I remember being pleased and surprised when the last line just appeared in regular iambic pentameter – perhaps that’s what suggested it might be better off earning its keep in a poem.