STEPHEN KEELER won the first Highland Literary Salon Poetry Competition (judged by John Glenday) and received a Scottish Book Trust New Writing Award in 2014/15. His poems have been published in Northwords Now and regularly in South Bank Poetry; he frequently reads his work in public. He teaches creative writing in the north-west highlands and is an inveterate traveller.


The Desk

There is this room, you see,
and in this room there is a desk
– more of a table, really, square,
its darkening grain is not unlike
the carved pelt of some sea-sleeked creature
down from the plains
now that it is no longer summer.

It stands on a Bokhara rug
because I like the words Bokhara rug
– the cool grain, the darkening of it;
it is a squat stanza, a sonnet of a table,
soft-hammered, mortised,
a gilded passage from an heirloom Bible.

Standing, it is a pulpit;
sitting, it becomes expanse; an offering
– where labour and belief long ago
began to dance for souls:
where everything matters
nothing matters.



The Winter-tree in Spring

It is a ritual that annually I swear
I’ll not observe this time:

the double-dare with the leaning larch.
And we were comfortably into May this year

before I lost my nerve that the desiccated tree
had not died again sometime between November

and Whitsuntide and would necessitate
expensive they-call-it-surgery

the fit young men in clever outfits
and a gleaming van tastefully lettered.

And every year I lose my nerve
I also lose the dare,

and always on the day before the tree
is lightly dusted, as though resprayed for joy

by Council workmen early in the morning
on their way to another duller job.

Every year I outwait myself thrilled by the gamble,
and every year the tree outwaits me by a single day:

elegant, sweeping, bastard-awkward tree.



Poem Without Words
                    for Stephen Hough

I love it that there are no words;
that even when laid out like summer nights,
unpacked and ready to be strung along the path,
and just as still, with all their power to attract
and light a fraying line, and charm,
they reach no nearer,
bring no darkroom image hardening into thought
that could, with work,
be framed into an utterance
to insist how much
I love it that there are no words.



All works published by the Glasgow Review of Books are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and the journal reserves the right to be named as place of first publication in any citation. Copyright remains with the poet.

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The Glasgow Review of Books (ISSN 2053-0560) is an online journal which publishes critical reviews, essays and interviews as well as writing on translation. We accept work in any of the languages of Scotland – English, Gàidhlig and Scots.

We aim to be an accessible, non-partisan community platform for writers from Glasgow and elsewhere. We are interested in many different kinds of writing, though we tend to lean towards more marginal, peripheral or neglected writers and their work. 

Though, our main focus is to fill the gap for careful, considered critical writing, we also publish original creative work, mostly short fiction, poetry and hybrid/visual forms. 

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