NEW POETRY BY HUGH MCMILLAN

HUGH MCMILLAN‘s work has been anthologised and broadcast widely, and has won various prizes, most recently the Cardiff International Poetry Competition in 2010. Postcards from the Hedge won the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2009, and he has also been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award and the Basil Bunting Award. Not Actually Being in Dumfries: New and selected poems was published by Luath Press in 2015. Luath also published his book about his home region McMillan’s Galloway: An unreliable journey in 2016.


 

Descent

Those tight bunned women
and fierce men are framed
always against a grey sky,
frozen on film like DNA.
Dogs lolling at their feet,

they are by their cottages,
at the doorstep or on benches
with a trellis of honeysuckle
behind. Only occasionally
is there a hint of hill or sea,
mostly they are framed by wall,

the same wall that their parents
posed by in photographs that grew
dark then disappeared.
Their children decamped
to other cottages nearby,
you see them in censuses

and birth certificates:
they were seamstresses,
fishermen, light keepers,
all rooted in the soil and mortar
until in a sunburst
they were scattered by war

or joblessness,
taken by their necks
and rained all over the world.
Altcreich, Traigh Mhor, Fonn Aline
have paved patio areas now.
500 pounds a week, no pets

but the views are to die for.

 

 

Accounting for Elspeth McQueen,
Kirkcudbright 1689

3 pounds for peat
16 shillings for coal
4 for rope, 4 for a tar barrel
8 for a drum beat.

The stink came free.
The smoke curled
in clouds above the Tolbooth,
cut off the light all day.

The minister
said his horse sweated blood
when they brought her in,
that she spoiled

her neighbours milk.
Guid folk all,
few there that day
beyond the executioner

who cost the council,
they noted, a pint at the start,
seven more
while she burned.

 

 

Birthday

It’d been a long day,
the wind howling down the road,
the bulbs failing.
I was thinking in a way

what a trail and what’s the end
when you’re this age and
your weans polite but detached
and dreams somewhere

stashed in a drawer,
then in the kitchen suddenly
the oldest one
said do you know

the Canadian Barn Dance?
I swear the longest sentence
I’d had over a month
was eight words

but she went on: start
with that foot, walk
for three steps, hop,
walk back for three and hop,

move sideways, clap,
waltz, sideways again,
to the left then back,
dance round the room,

dance round the room!
What a speech,
and how her braces shone
in the failing light!

There was four foot square
to move in, only a space
between table
and piles of plates

but we danced and danced.

 


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. http://www.glasgowreviewofbooks.com


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