‘A Scottish Autumn’

A couple of books were put into my hands yesterday. The first was a hot-off-the-presses copy of Lupa, one of the launch batch. It’s an interesting feeling holding the first pukka copy of a published novel. I’ve held the proof copy, but this is a different sensation. The second was a copy of the Realms of Gold anthology which I mentioned before, in which I have five poems. It was nice to find that I had won the Vera Rich Memorial Prize with my poem ‘A Scottish Autumn’. This isn’t a big prize, as the range of contributors to the anthology is limited, so I’m not about to exaggerate its importance, but it is named after a poet for whom I had enormous respect.

I wrote ‘A Scottish Autumn’ several years ago basing it on three paintings by Scottish landscape artist Tom Barron. The committee said of it: ‘The judgment here, with respect to this poem, is that it stood out for its local colour, imagistic clarity, and its intelligence.’ I have reproduced it below.


A Scottish Autumn

i.

when I was wee I used to buy
tiny drums of ice cream
wrapped round with a paper label

the melt ran down my fingers
and scented them vanilla

on train journeys banked above
where the Earn meanders
I would see bales

fallen chessmen on
an abandoned board

and a sudden trove of tastes
and smells would open up
I would find my fingers on
the carriage-window

as though to pick up
a melting memory

ii.

lassie – pit a bunnet awn

the farmer took pity on my reddening face
and the way my hair shone with sweat
we children swarmed upon the stubble field
it was our holiday to help heave the big
brick-bales of straw onto the flat-bed trailer

as the mountain grew the farmboys took them
out of our hands belt-buckle-high for the boys
but where our faces were a glow of heat
and hefted them into the hard-blue of the sky
our reward was some Tizer from the tractor-cab

now look at these –  an overturned colonnade
awaiting the fork-lift like a bull awaits an axe

iii.

close-to there is grey
and there is green

and the must
like old clothes
in the Sally Army shop

not the spitting dust
of summer

the icy water from
a seasons-old furrow
overtops one shoe

and these lone
old-men-of-the-fields

stand

mute as blocks
haphazard

lumbered ghosts
of a past
harvest