David Whippman’s poem has much to tell us about life and people. To which we add some other poems of people and their daily activities, what they care about and what keeps them going through the wastes of time — what “makes them tick.”
By the virtues of storymaking, unusual or eccentric people are often selected as subjects. George W Colkitto’s skating minister is already an icon in Scotland, as he glides vividly over the small Edinburgh loch in Raeburn’s painting, which was memorably used for the cover of a Scottish poetry anthology.
Not everyone is eminent. Researching the history of Lancashire miners, Sally James couldn’t find any records of the mining community women so she invented some, including this washerwoman.
Tony Lewis-Jones writes of the famous or infamous Duchess of Argyll, at first glance a hilarious subject but of course there is more to it than that.
It is never difficult to find poems about people, but we hope you like this rather incongruous group.
Next weekend is our busy Callander Poetry Weekend here in Scotland. It is our own small highlight, when dozens of the poets we know and love come to share a tight programme of poems and performances. The next Keep Poems Alive post will probably come early in the week after that, when we are back to “the real game.”
Who needs all ninety minutes? You can watch
Edited highlights – they’re more than enough:
The only things that matter in a match,
All of it end to end, exciting stuff.
Do-or-die tackles, every pass spot on ,
Each shot a screamer fit to burst the net,
The Beautiful Game with all the dull bits gone
Is what we want. The rest you can forget.
Off-screen, it’s different. Real life’s not about
Winning the league, the lifting of a cup.
The moves break down, the build-ups fizzle out.
Hanging around when people don’t turn up,
waiting to get the ball back from the crowd:
That’s the real game. The bulk of it is dud.
The goals are flukes or cruelly disallowed.
Most of my life, I’ve slogged through midfield mud.
First published in Snakeskin.
Reverend Robert Walker
A Walker who is a Skater
A minister who is at play
Stiff style as if afraid they say
Godly men would be at prayer
Skill tells of many a winter
Honing talent to glide so smooth
Time from study the child to soothe
Shown now on Duddingston water
He does not smile as that might grate
Does not unbend in dress nor pose
Keeps dignity required by those
Who minister at Canongate
A Scotsman tied though he seems free
Bound within, in constraint self-made
Arms pulled back could it be dread
That in his grasp is liberty.
First published in Dead Among the Daffodils 2007
She started work when the birds woke
lit the fire beneath the copper boiler
let it spill, cold and sparkling
from the lone brass tap.
Hands rubbed raw with scrubbing
hadn’t healed from the previous wash
glistened red with white petroleum jelly.
On a nail on a green door
his pit clothes hung
she left those till last
till white sheets had been boiled
dolly blued and starched
swayed like ghosts on a coarse rope.
In the backyard chickens pecked at grass in cracks
squawked at the clothes prop.
Grandma with a mug of tea
watched her daughter scrubbing
checked the whites for blemishes
coughed in the hot steam
lifted a dead mouse
with the coal shovel.
The Duchess of Argyll
Her sofa is a battleground on which
Lovers compete. The boundaries of good taste
Are not assaulted. Sex is dividing silk
Or polishing a gem – the ultimate
Release of feeling, renewable, complete.
She keeps no servants and the house is cold.
Age has been tactful, but is not a friend.
The Duchess of Argyll is dead. Eclipsed
By time, sold to posterity. Outside
Men one would never take to bed
Are loudly singing home. Another
Desperate look into those eyes that hold
Ghosts of a previous happiness.
Her fine hair still suggesting gold.
Image from the New York City Opera, Powder her Face