Door, I have knocked, pushed,
licked and, for a year, stroked
your veins smooth as varnish.
My knuckles are hard, black beetles.
We were children first
when I saw your blue sway
into a cottage on the coast.
Each day the repetitive sea
Door, you have been painted many things:
argument red, family yellow, divorce brown.
I too have been locked and pushed
shut, hung on frames and forced to gaze
through creaking day and slamming night
at the parked silver car and children
high on birch. Door, I too have stared
at my own brass, have become wood
and squeaked with need. Weathered, pale,
but still here. So we can peer through gloam
and into each other, honest as hinge
and nail, can open and call this home.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2015. 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 2015 was Ken MacLeod.
This poem is not obscure in its language, but it resists paraphrase. The more times you read it, the more you feel you know what it’s saying. But I still can’t say what it is.
I was hosting a Golden Hour reading one night with Rodge Glass, who mentioned he was editing a collection of new Scottish fiction to be called ‘The Year of Open Doors’. I said I wished I wrote fiction so I could be in the book amongst the other contemporary writers he’d lined up, and he said I could try my hand at a poem to open or maybe close the book. So this is one of the rare poems that began with a kind of title and a sense of what it should be about. I thought about doors and Scotland, and what it means to be a writer. I thought about struggle and the time it takes. I sent Rodge the poem and he put it in his anthology, which was released by Cargo in 2010. I’m still pleased that I sneaked a poem into a collection of fiction.