Two Poems

For the Scottish Gaelic originals, please click here.



The Chinese Beetle


In a certain region of China,
in the southwest, not far from the mountains of Yunnan,
a kind of apple is to be found
with such an exquisite flavor
that in ancient times the emperors would spend
their gold to buy them, and offer them
at feasts and banquets in the great palace.
But they didn't actually taste like apples.
I read that this was because of a beetle
which is only found on the trees of that region
and which lays its eggs for the time of their growing
in the heart of the apples. They do not stay
for long, but a marvelous fragrance
spreads through each fruit. After the worm
has spread its wings and fled
no trace remains of its sojourn
except an amber glow in the flesh
of the apple and a wonderful aroma
that all the scholars and gardeners
of the court were unable to explain.


That is what I do with this language.


A Wish


I'd like to make pictures
instead of poems.


That way
each one would have its tale
of sales and robberies
of rooms where it had hung
of women and dear friends
who got it as a gift.


They would have to be insured
carefully packed and transported
in lorries and in trains
and a hundred years from now
somebody could restore them
because each color would have its own way
of changing and decomposing
just as pebbles and plants
will change the taste and color
of a mountain pool across the centuries.


They would get lost and damaged
stubborn people would refuse to sell them
cracks in the canvas would cause concern
and experts would hunt without success
for the most precious one of all
hanging unknown
in the darkness of a warm
quiet home, where each evening
a woman closed the curtains
and sat long before a lively fire
with a book in her hands.


They would have none
of the tiresome repetitiveness of printing.
They'd only come together
in ephemeral exhibitions
spilling over from room to room
mixing with other painters' paintings
while spectators came and went
or escaped to the café for half an hour.


And when the museum had closed
in the shadows of the echoing rooms
they'd converse secretly
like members of a scattered family
who only rarely come together
for funerals or weddings or christenings.