‘The morning being chilly, she warmed her cold hands at the “bonnie fire” as she called it.’
Last Execution for Witchcraft in Scotland, 1722 by W. N. Neill
We lived far in the north
with all manner of ghosts.
We haunted the birches,
cats followed us purring.
school in Janet Horne’s town.
There was a witches’ pool
on its course’s last hole.
kelpies, told me
to be wary of those
unknown faces, horses.
Rowans reassured us.
They thought, back then, her feet
and hands showed signs she had
been shod by the devil.
Orcadian Strip the Willow, Hogmanay
When our turn comes at the chords,
their familiar crest, the sea outside,
in the final hours of December,
we knit, feet blunt,
to pull a circle against gravity.
The fiddle strings, restless girls
meeting you, leaving you, then again.
I am passed between strong hooks of arms,
men who have seen me all these years,
who send me back to you.
You leave, return and
we move as bees returned to the hive.
An unbuttoning then hot buttoning,
the accordion a weatherbeaten grin.
We are clumps of snow dissolving in a river,
breaking from our selves in blurs of family colour.
This aurora borealis from a Viking archipelago.
The moment a whoop flies out of a woman,
you might see bogle faces at the window.
On First Sight
That you carried a cello on your back like a shell.
That you were the only pupil at school with a beard.
That your large shoulders hunched to write equations.
That you looked like someone who liked Sonic Youth.
That you struggled to hold chopsticks.
That Portuguese was your mother tongue.
That you wore glasses, thinking you were alone.
That you were leaning on a shelf of Swedish literature.
That you were balding and calm.
That you were on the floor, facing Mecca.
That you were buying clams.
That your aviators were a defence mechanism.
That I wanted to sleep with you immediately.
That you were wearing a black suit in a white art gallery.
That you were selling roses at night.
That there was something of Gavrilo Princip about you.
That I had met you the previous summer (untrue).
That you were dressed in drag as a bride.
That you were young and male among middle-aged women.
At first I don’t see it:
a bullet the size of a whale;
painted black as the water,
waiting behind bare trees.
(It is nearly the end of the year.)
You want to go inside.
I sit by the ticket booth and watch
tiny children cycle past
again and again and again,
like vivid, recurring dreams.
I imagine you inside, climbing
though a series of ill-lit rooms;
thick dark walls and doors,
designed for a life under water.
Further and smaller,
smaller and further.
At first I don’t see it, the submarine.
It seems when you go in, you love me;
and when you come out, you don’t.
A bullet the size of a whale,
black as the water. Surreptitiously,
it is nearly the end of the year.