CARLY BROWN is originally from Austin, Texas, and is now a writer and PhD student based in Scotland. She is the author of a picture book, I Love St Andrews, and a poetry pamphlet, Grown Up Poetry Needs to Leave Me Alone. In 2013, she was Scotland’s National Champion of Slam Poetry. Her website is: carlyjbrown.com
Poems after The Scottish Colourists
En Plein Air
After John Duncan Fergusson
The lady, who is you, surveys the cafes of Montparnasse
with an artist’s eye for detail. I would not say mistrusting.
She looks, as you look, at the rims of coffee cups and their
smudges of lipstick. I would not say she is haughty or bored
by the Closerie des Lilas, merely guarding her reaction,
keeping her feelings bundled at her throat like lace.
The lady’s hat is not an upturned laundry basket
or overgrown soup bowl. She is just as you were
on that day when you stood for me in the Paris quartier,
long enough for me to paint the white-yellow-white
for your cheeks, the blue-black-blue of your hat.
If you don’t see yourself, it is only because you’re not
looking at your proud mouth, insistent nose and eyes
that are every colour mixed together. Where are your
brows? They are folded under your brown-red-brown hair
like two small secrets. You cannot say I do not love them.
After Samuel Peploe
My father taught me boxes.
These shells for copper, silk
ties, wedding rings. He taught me
keys with teeth, fit to pry them
open and ran my fingers on the edges.
This is where you find the family
documents, certificates, silver jewelry.
This is the bank where I keep things
safe. These are square chimneys
and windows. These things work
like roads and grids and ledgers
to keep us from falling
in the North Sea.
These are the carefully drawn boundaries
of Princes Street.
But I liked the wynds, loose
with rain water, droplets racing
down the window and swallowing
The first time I saw
Amsterdam, liquid sloshing
on pavements, pavements sinking
I told my father
tulips rang out
yellow and I bought Frans Hals!
and chocolates and
fried potatoes and when I left
my suitcase was so full
it would not
Inspired by the painting ‘Iona Croft’, Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1925)
somehow the sun melted onto the roof,
cracked open like an egg and all the juices ran down
the sides of the white house on Iona, dripping and sliding
in avalanches of colour
all the roofs were blue but this one, with its melody of falling reds
seeping browns and blurring tans, see me by the pink waterfall
haystack, my legs pressed against the grass wondering who
decided to unstop the bottle and pour
it onto that little white house
and if, inside, the colours fall on all the furniture, roof leaking
red and yellow, splattering the floorboards with strange brightness,
like eyes adjusting to light,
making chairs sing orange and pink high notes
I fell asleep and dreamed of who lives there,
maybe their lives are fresh as new paint
cold and wet and slippery to touch, in that little white house
where nothing ever settles
and nothing ever hardens
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