Inspired by I love you still (1994) by Jordan Baseman
First peek’s a double deek. Fit’s at random branch?
It disnae belang.
Bit it maks the bairn lauch, an it reels ye in fer a closer swatch.
Gads min, human hair’s fit ye see. By the order o the patriarchy –
we’ll say far hair should an shouldnae be.
A warm, wise wifie eence telt me
“delete at wird should fae yer vocabulary.”
So aa dae. Nae mannies dictatin tae me.
Up here, yer nae meant tae lay bare, strip yer bark,
dinnae let folk see vulnerability aneath oor thin veneer o stuck on skin.
Grunny wid say iss isnae the kin o airt ye’d tak hame tae meet yer Ma.
I snap a photie tae rile up ma Da, mak him stairt, “Fit the hell’s at?”
Tak great delight in watchin him itch
recht uncomfy wae sic self-honesty,
He disnae see fit we dae:
hope, even monsters kin be bonnie, an mibbe, loved,
fan ye tak a risk an luik deep enough.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2022. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, which includes 5 poems in Scots 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 Scots editor in 2022 was W.N. Herbert.
Ekphrasis? Kent his faither – or sae gaes the auld joke in new claes – the great thing aboot Jo Gilbert’s duckin and weavin tribute tae the sculpture by Jordan Baseman is it spottit that ane comin and a wheen like it, and incorporatit it intae the body o its verse in exactly the wey Baseman’s sculpture pleys wi oor expectations as to whit’s natural, authentic, normal – and turns them tapsalteerie. (Whit is it? It’s a hairy stick like she’s telt ye, a Y-shaped thing wi the bark on its upper arms replaced by hair. Y? That’s whit the poem’s aboot, man.) Whit I love aboot this poem is the eident wey it moves atween encounter and reflection, incident and reaction, and maks a new shape tae haud and present them aa, the wey a haund is baith gripper and gesture, and, mair precisely, the wey a poem is baith receiver o experience and embodier as weel as transmitter o language.
This poem was inspired by an artwork in Aberdeen Art Gallery called ‘I Love You Still’ by Jordan Baseman. I was awarded a micro-commission to write three poems in response to pieces in the collection. My emotional connection to the gallery through my nephew was the inspiration for the poems. We spent loads of time there and got to know the art so well that he’d demand I wheel him around in the buggy to see ‘the hairy stick’ every visit. I loved seeing his reactions to the new work on show as well as the repeated requests for his old favourites. ‘Yon Hairy Stick’ is now part of the permanent collection at Aberdeen Art Gallery, alongside ‘Velveteen Beings’ and ‘Oor bit, oor airt’.