About the poet

Jim Carruth was born in Johnstone in 1963 and grew up on his parents’ dairy farm. After spending a period in Turkey, he returned to live in Renfrewshire. He is one of the founders and current chair of St Mungo’s Mirrorball, a network of Glasgow-based poets, and has been an artistic advisor for StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival. In 2014, he became Glasgow’s Poet Laureate.

Carruth was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2009 and has been the winner of the James McCash poetry competition, the McLellan Poetry Prize and the Callum Macdonald prize. Click here to read Elizabeth Rimmer’s review of Jim’s ‘Auchensale Trilogy’ on our site.

Black Cart

Time’s wagon ever-onward driven” – Alexander Pushkin

The stook building had finished early that day
so all of us jumped a lift on the miller’s big cart
discarding thin shirts in a pile behind the driver.

Harvest’s favourite sons bronzed and bawdy,
we stood at the back shouting on passers by,
toasting our handiwork with sickly warm beer.

Under a big sky Johnny sang something coarse
and we bellowed along proud of our own voices,
confident of tomorrows, as if we owned the sun.

Some cursing an old Clydesdale’s slow rhythm
raced ahead of the cart impatient for the ceilidh
while others stayed on through a sunset’s glow.

Beyond Harelaw the mare laboured on the brae,
strained on its breast strap; the dray shuddered
and empty bottles rolled across its wooden floor,

boards stained with the dry blood of dead beasts.
We crouched down quick, clung on to the sides,
felt then a first shiver and reached for our shirts.

Passing those unmarked crossings and road ends,
the horse slowed on its journey but never stopped
so Johnny, his song long silent, must’ve slipped off

unnoticed, and the others too when their time came,
like orchards’ ripe fruit, dropped soft to the ground,
disappeared fast down dirt tracks and narrow lanes.

Those of us that remained pulled our knees up tight,
our thin joints stiffening in the moonlit glint of sickle,
our whispers drifting away on a winnowing breeze.

Storm clouds rolled in to snuff out every dead star
until there was just me huddled by the driver’s back
the darkest mile left to go and too late for the dance.

From Black Cart (Birlinn/Polygon)

Beyond the Headlands

Beyond the farm’s last headland,
the furthest furrow in the parish,
everything changes, if you let it.
Tall blackthorn guards a darkness
for those who risk the journey
and step into that ancient lane 
the other side of the barred gate. 

The village elders, who remember 
rumour and gossip as teaching,
call that walk the falling away.
The few who return are altered,
with a strange new coarseness
in gait and manner, joyless, 
slow to share their many demons.
Their tales are rambling, incoherent, 
holding little common ground 
for those who stayed behind.

They cannot remember the days
of the festivals, will not sing 
the old songs, nor help with harvest.
At night though huddled closest 
to the home hearth they feel a chill.
To look into their empty stares 
is to find the hurt of a double grief 
to be lost and found and lost again.

From Bale Fire (Birlinn/Polygon)

The Gamekeeper’s Daughter

‘This fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English gamekeeper is of considerable interest to outdoor minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper. Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material.’ 

– Review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in Field and Stream, November 1959

As hounds yelp distant on the moor
he will use his poacher’s map,
tip toeing past traps in the wood

to reach an unlocked cottage door.                     
The coat hooks are empty, boots gone
but he smells her father everywhere.

Still the lure is great, she calls
and he follows, undressing fast
like the thrashing of a salmon.

He slips in closer to his singing prey.
Her body lies still, skin soft as fawn;
her song is of the trapped and sprung.

The way she raises her eyebrow 
with the gentle lifting of the latch
is the look of hunter not hunted.

From Far Field (Birlinn/Polygon)

Aeolian Harp
(after Jean Giono)

Shepherds, on my death let me be 
an Aeolian harp. Yoke my corpse,
unclothed, from two high pines; 
string this lyre from tip to trunk.
From what is left of flesh and bone,
tighten each line ready for the tune 
then go and tend your flocks
for this is still about the living.
Let the seasons shape me
the winds breathe on me, 
the sky stream through me.
Let my voice not be my own.              

From Far Field (Birlinn/Polygon)

Click here to read Elizabeth Rimmer’s review of the three books in Jim’s ‘Auchensale Trilogy’

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