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Poetry

Three Poems

By Janet Paisley
Translated from Scots by Janet Paisley

Hawk Stones

watching the procession to open Scotland's parliament
ceased 25 March 1707 resurrected 1 July 1999

there is no stone where the hawk soars,
no hawk where the stones stand

nor at their cobbled feet, no king
to reign his wide high street

where only rain crowns a castle-hill
no burning women wish they'd drowned

and the shuttered shops can sell no cloth
while no tea or snuff is taken there

as no gill bell rings this meridian
nearly three hundred years are turned around

on a spiral stair. Edinburgh sings
an old song to a newborn tune, and a star

is lit where stone mounts dust
to raise us up where the hawk can soar.

With These Rings

You are fresh words
on the old stone of time.

Here, silence honors you,
here now, the earth turns,
the sun beats, the rain sings.

You are not adrift
among the wheeling constellations
but held by the hoop of love.

Ancient as the ring of standing stones,
prophetic as a snow-ring round the moon,
marriage is.

Wear your vows well when laughter
is the wine between you

or when night lies like a bolster
down the middle of your bed.

May the cold shoulder of the hill
always afford you shelter.
May the sun always seek you
however dark the place.

We who are wordless know
thorns have roses.

And when you go from this day
the burnished stars go with you.

When you go forward from this day,
the love that grew you
grows with you

and marriage is struck,
iron on stone, hand in hand.

scotland

she is a harsh mother,
arthritic with hills and crags
cut deeper than crow's feet.

her face is lined with ravines
her voice the roar of spume
on broken brown-toothed rock.

she passes boulders off as breasts,
belts her waist with an industrious past,
in her arms, she gathers firs

a grey and grizzled warrior, she is
bordered by ample hips, her tongue
a lash of thunderous voltage.

no season softens her, she drags
her children up on gorse and whin,
winters them without kindness.

she fires the hearth with ice or hail,
expects snow to pass for gentleness.
spring girdles her old in green.

if she holds you to her rugged breast
it is to pour the white-water scorn
of mountains on your head.

when she croons, she throws up seagulls.
sleeping, she drags a lumpen pillow
over the moon, punches out a few stars.

she'll turn your dreams to Scotch mist,
bone comb your hair with tugging wind
scrub your faces with rain.

in your mouth she lodges a language
no one speaks, in your heart a stone.
but if you go from her

a wild song and dance will follow
to bind you forever son or daughter,
make you sick for home.

English Scots

Hawk Stones

watching the procession to open Scotland's parliament
ceased 25 March 1707 resurrected 1 July 1999

there is no stone where the hawk soars,
no hawk where the stones stand

nor at their cobbled feet, no king
to reign his wide high street

where only rain crowns a castle-hill
no burning women wish they'd drowned

and the shuttered shops can sell no cloth
while no tea or snuff is taken there

as no gill bell rings this meridian
nearly three hundred years are turned around

on a spiral stair. Edinburgh sings
an old song to a newborn tune, and a star

is lit where stone mounts dust
to raise us up where the hawk can soar.

With These Rings

You are fresh words
on the old stone of time.

Here, silence honors you,
here now, the earth turns,
the sun beats, the rain sings.

You are not adrift
among the wheeling constellations
but held by the hoop of love.

Ancient as the ring of standing stones,
prophetic as a snow-ring round the moon,
marriage is.

Wear your vows well when laughter
is the wine between you

or when night lies like a bolster
down the middle of your bed.

May the cold shoulder of the hill
always afford you shelter.
May the sun always seek you
however dark the place.

We who are wordless know
thorns have roses.

And when you go from this day
the burnished stars go with you.

When you go forward from this day,
the love that grew you
grows with you

and marriage is struck,
iron on stone, hand in hand.

scotland

she is a harsh mother,
arthritic with hills and crags
cut deeper than crow's feet.

her face is lined with ravines
her voice the roar of spume
on broken brown-toothed rock.

she passes boulders off as breasts,
belts her waist with an industrious past,
in her arms, she gathers firs

a grey and grizzled warrior, she is
bordered by ample hips, her tongue
a lash of thunderous voltage.

no season softens her, she drags
her children up on gorse and whin,
winters them without kindness.

she fires the hearth with ice or hail,
expects snow to pass for gentleness.
spring girdles her old in green.

if she holds you to her rugged breast
it is to pour the white-water scorn
of mountains on your head.

when she croons, she throws up seagulls.
sleeping, she drags a lumpen pillow
over the moon, punches out a few stars.

she'll turn your dreams to Scotch mist,
bone comb your hair with tugging wind
scrub your faces with rain.

in your mouth she lodges a language
no one speaks, in your heart a stone.
but if you go from her

a wild song and dance will follow
to bind you forever son or daughter,
make you sick for home.

Three Poems

Gled Stanes

watching the riding to open Scotland's parliament

ceased 25 March 1707 resurrected 1 July 1999

 

thur is nae stane whaur the gled soars,

nae gled whaur the stanes staun

 

nor it thair cobbled feet, nae king

tae reign ees braid high street

 

whaur nowt but smirr croons a castlehill

nae burnin weemin wish they'd drooned

 

an the shuttered shops kin sell nae claith

whiles nae tea or snuff is taen ben there

 

gin nae gill bell dirls oor meridian

near three hunner year ae time birls roon

 

oan a turnpike stair. Auld Reekie sings

an auld sang tae a newborn tune, an a staur

 

is kenled whaur stane mounts stoor

tae heicht us up whaur the gled kin soar.

 

Wi Thur Twa Rings

 

Yeese are chippit new

intae the auld stane o time.

 

Here, awthing faws quate fur yeese,

here noo, sunlicht skirls,

rain diddles, the yirth birls.

 

Yeese are no alane

amang the hurlin constellations

but cleikit tae thon gird cried love.

 

Aulder than ony circle o staunin stanes,

shair as a snaw-ring roon the mune,

mairrige is.

 

Weer yer vows weel when kecklin

is the ale atween yeese

 

or when nicht draps like a bolster

doon the middle o yer bed.

 

Let the cauld shooder o the ben

aywis coorie ye kindly.

Let the sun aywis hunt ye

hooever daurk yon place.

 

We wha haud oor wheesht ken

thorns hae roses.

 

And when ye gang fae this day

the skinklin staurs gang wi ye.

 

When ye gang furrit fae this day,

the love that grew ye

growes wi ye

 

and mairrige is wrocht,

iron oan stane, haund in haund.

 

scotland

 

she's a haurd mither, sair

scartit wi braes an glens

oot-stravaigin ony craw's feet.

 

hur face glowers wi heuchs

hur vyce teems a burn in spate

ower broon-teeth jaggit scaurs.

 

she pits oan clinty craigs are briests,

belts hur waist wi forfochen industry,

in hur airms, she gethers firs.

 

aywis a thrawn, crabbit fechter, she's

boardered by fuller hips, flytin

fire-dairts wi thunnered micht.

 

nae season lichtens hur, she drags

hur bairns up oan kail an whin,

winters thaim athoot guidness.

 

she kennles the grate wi chitterin hail,

coups snaw tae shaw hoo saft she is.

spring claeths hur aulder in green.

 

if she coories ye in tae hur breist

it is tae skail a linn's white-watter

torrent o snash oantae yer heid.

 

liltin, she bokes up craikin maws.

sleepin, she bumphles a runkled pilla

ower the mune, batters oot twa three staurs.

 

she'll smoor yer dreams wi Scotch mist,

nit kaim yer hair wi chuggin wind,

slounge yer faces wi rain.

 

in yer mooth she staps a leid

naebody kens, in yer hert a stane.

but gang awa fae hur

 

a rantin sang and dance'll folley

tae reel ye in as son or dochter,

mak ye seik fur hame.