Win-Blawn (Poems In England)

The Flâneuse
I walk my city, soles-to-the-pavement
Eyes-on-the- street-engagement
Torn between wandering and settling.
Alighting momentarily on a bench

I am the town's observer
Outwith the spider's web of interaction
I watch the tug of the threads
As others are drawn into communication

I am all eyes, like a gigantic fly
I flee when others try to come too close

I am a matchstick person
Strike me, strike me, I burst into flame
I am the solitary walker Flâneuse is my name


Wedge of Chastity
Like a tooth set in a gum
Snug nestling in the pink
Womb matters
A bloody inconvenience
Roll the stone over
The dark mouth of the cave
Try a Wedge of Chastity


Winnie on a Swing
Her feet touch the chimney
Where a crow is roosting

Her pigtail on the backswing
Brushes the grass,
Flicks away an aphid

Tick tock, an hour of play till sleep
Winnie laughs softly.
The swing slices the air.


Hop on Hop
Hop on hop off, by the Scott monument
Bagpipe music skirls. The air is rent

Tacitus was here and warlike Celts
With skulls on poles, tricked out in grim wolf pelts

Five star hotels, dispensing haute couture
The Grassmarket, once home of herd and whore

The inn once owned by Biddy Milligan
Greyfriar's kirk where Greyfriar's Bobby ran
His snout now rubbed as bright's a Brasso can

George Heriot School, the towering Edinburgh Castle
Where tourists throng and chatter, pant and bustle
Up its steep sides. See Chambers Street today
Where art students once sketched Sean Connery

The World's End- John Knox House- place of stories
Samson's Ribs- the Pleasance- tourist foreys

Down to the Parliament, affairs of state
Facing the Palace for the high and great

Dynamic Earth- Burns monument- such views!
From Arthur's Seat, to gaze on and amuse
The Iron Duke, the National Galleries
King George IVth found much to thrill and please
A sight for sore eyes in his mini kilt
Twentyfive stone in weight, like a tank built

Yellow canaries, hop on hop off crew
Herd folk on board, to tell old tales anew


Post Mortem
June. The leaves hang limp with heat
A woman sits painting her nails on her doorstep

In homes across the city, hot in the clammy evening
Families strip down to the very bare necessities

I choose to think you were suddenly called away
To a far country

I am a moth, circling the light of your memory
Sorrow's a quicksand, it sucks you down like a stone

A year of rain, snow, sun has passed
Since you lay down with the moon and did not rise


Ice-Cream
Ignore tsunamis.
hurricanes, the ephemeral
whims of the Seasons

change comes with little,
personal griefs and losses

gouging your heart out
like an ice cream scoop


Change (3)
Change is a whin-pod bursting
Change is the scythe of sorrow
Change is an axe descending
Change is the death of tomorrow

Change is schismatic winter
Change is a wood of ash
Change is a son coffined
And the world, turned to trash


Relics of my Parents' Marriage
A heavy metal stew pot which survived a war
The last of the dining room chairs
Dark thick varnish. Legs like marathon runners

These are all that outlived the clocks
Those martinets of time
His shotgun, his braces, the purplish peony roses
The mousetraps primed to decapitate small rodents
The rolling pin, her frocks, the gas mask
The rusting tin of Vic. The porridge spurtle
The keys that locked the cupboards of their kingdom
Grandmother's Highland cattle painted in mist
The wireless with the wonky on/off switch
Diaspora of the grave goods, Who are your owners now?


The Enigma of the Shells
When I was small I was a living loom
Tilting my hands like a cat's cradle
While grandmother wound the wool
Into a widening ball

Tom Thumbs in the garden
Rioted over the path
A rumba of sunny flounces
Wetting my tiny ankles

Peony roses eased their velvet waistbands
Cracks of shadows, like pleats between their petals

Then there was the enigma of the shells
Devoid of occupants, as if the horned snails
Had glided into the air and disappeared

So many mysteries of loom, of shadow, of shell
Finding my thread in the greater pattern
A Shirley Temple girl in somebody else's frock


Childhood in the Cup of a Glen
Memories blaze up like wildfire in my thoughts
I grew with the Gaelic of places in my ears

On summer nights, I heard the thunder speak
Grumbling between the hills like a beast in a cage
Back and fore, back and fore between the heather Bens

The moon was a jiggly Chinese lantern bleared by rain
Always, I heard the river, murmuring
Like granny when she muttered in her sleep

And it seemed like the walls were paper thin
Could tear wide open, letting the thunder enter into the room

The wind rose and fell in waves
Like painted galloping horses in a carousal

As a I child I spoke the language of the glen
Its nights, its days, stepping from the ladder of the river
Up to the loft of the Bens. My skin smelt of thyme and peat
My footsteps cupped its pebbles. My tongue was a green fern

The glen was a cunning woman, a healer
A Cailleach of hopes and secrets
It held the elixir or life, the alchemy of youth

I would sit cross legged with a toad in the glen
Staring into its jewelled eyes like a zealot adoring an idol

When I swam in the loch I was a salmon's child
Silver scaled in the sun. I knew I would always return
In thought or flesh to the water.

Deeside wombed me.
My vertebrae are the pebbles of Glen Gairn, Glen Muick
The little tinkling stream of Allt-an-Sneachda

I came to womanhood here
A rough wooing, bloody and harsh
Smelling of fish and tin

The braille of heather etched poems on my hands
My mind was a quaich, its tangs fermented there

This place will be my shroud
My dead lie under this soil
The moon kisses their stones

Their souls, like pigeons, curmur
On the kirk slates, looking down
On their bolt-hole, their bone-lair
Their precious scoop of ash

Now I am toughened and leathered like a cured hide
I draw near to the lip of the grave
Deeside is the mouth that will swallow me
My kist will rest easy, there


The Naming of the Hens
First, I name this hen Starboard
In full sight of Ben Ledi and the River of Teith

May all the books in Callander
Bow down and rustle in reverence as she passes

Second, I name this hen Runnymead
May her yolk be as yellow's the thatch
On Donald Trump's temporal lobes
For she is feathered fore and aft
And hulled like a Fin man's duvet
And this is no false news

Third, I name this hen, Hetty-Sequins-coquette
She of the scaly shanks
Patterned like the fish net stockings
Of a red light Embro lady of the night

Fourth, I name this hen Sheba- Kingschoice the Third
Queen of the fowls of the pleasure- garden
For she has an eye as shiny
As the seat of a call-centre worker's bottom

Fifth, I name this fine hen Port
For her beak is a well-oiled piston
Her belly, a barrel of goodness
She pops out eggs
Like balls fired off in a squash court

Sixth, I name this hen Flibberty-Gibbet
For her claws rake the ground beneath her
Like a gold digger dragging her nails
Down a sugar daddy's back

Seventh, I name this hen Leda Kaminski
For she cocks her leg like Pavlova
In mid-arabesque

Go forth unto the garden and lay
Oh feathery flotilla of cackles and c-c-c clucks
Away with you, into the hedge
To unload your precious cargo,
Whilst shielding your henny modestry

Benefactresses of breakfasts
Providers of omelette and quiche
Burblers o bubbling fecundity
Who could watch you strut and not dream
Of beheaded egg, sun-tanned bread soldiers
Ready to plunge into your savoury depths?


The Neighbour
His Saxon wife had skin like alabaster
He was a scientist- a brilliant mind
Liked Bach. Despised pop dirge and ghetto blaster

He had a mistress, this was no disaster.
She lived in Rome (he was the secret kind
In Scotland, a good husband, honest master)

Couples have cracks, stay wed by using plaster
To fool the world around, in street or wynd
A lie once told next time is spoken faster.

It suited her to act as a pilaster
She had her children, so she acted blind
And for his soul, she'd say a pater noster
My father talked of gardens with this mister,
A cultural bridge, all difference left behind
The thistle and the rose, bluebell and aster

At Hogmanay, he gave him drink, a gesture
Of goodwill, to this English gent, refined
By learning, widely travelled, knowledge vaster
Than ours, whose marriage was a small disaster.

For Morven, in June
Grief, I'm told, is yesterday's news
Fit only for holding greasy chips
Or wrapping flower stems dripping greenishwater
Destined for the grave

My prodigal, starved of love in life
Your frame turned skeletal

In the moments between work and thought
A hurt opens up inside me, a kick in the gut

Your voice is stilled, your human footprints gone
A bulldozer had turned my world to rubble

I have joined the ranks of the bereaved, the sorrowing
Even when I lay me down to sleep, the wound weeps on


Passport Control, Eternity
Cloudy, nebulous setting
In a room of no furniture, no walls

Out of the dust of the dead
Here come the happily wedded
Here come the never bedded
Here come the moaners and weepers
The young, the sagacious, the crude
The runners, the fops, the creepers

Yesterday, like ivy, still stakes its claim on them
Sweat, nails, hair, flesh, fat
Detritus of mankind all left behind
360% of surplus requirement
But the yearning remains to go back

The sorting of souls must be
Like herding cats. For minds
Are slippery as eels

The queue of ghosts is restless
Waiting for their souls to fly the coop

by Sheena Blackhall

Comments (1)

An astonishingly detailed and exhilarating ride through the miscellany of Life with Princess Street as a backdrop. You know, Sheena, this might well be the best poem I've read on PH. If not, it's pretty darn close.