ONE 4 • Poetspace 4: James W Wood, Rodney Relax and Jane McKie

Listening to the Language of the Birds (Li Bai)
The sky creeps along the city walls: clouds and crows
alight from branches, telephone poles, narrow lanes.
In a canal-side flat a girl is knitting clothes
for fog, mist, drizzle. She hears the birds’ black refrain
and waits: her hands are stopped trains, endlessly delayed;
her hope is this empty room; her tears are the rain.
– Sam Meekings
An Fraoch Mhor
I walked in rain
looking for heather
but stumbled on gorse
with its bright flower.
I picked its colour
from sentry leaves
remembering how
my fingers would bleed
as I stole
yellow blooms
from that spiky fastness
when I was young.
In my memory, the gorse
and heather seemed higher.
But this wind is hard –
its salt stings my eyes.
Let memory go now
for in this flower I hold
all that I have learned
and the first love of the world.

– James W Wood

An Fraoch Mhor is from James W. Wood’s forthcoming collection Inextinguishable (Knucker Press –, a pamphlet illustrated by a diverse range of responses from young artists at the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA).
Reed Chamber
Reeds cut from a stock
fall into the shape
of stacked corn –
a skewed cone,
open to all-comers.
It is dark inside,
barely a nook for light:
only a mirror and lens,
a camera obscura.
This is its altar.
On the floor,
the mirror reflects
a circular pool
of living reeds.
They bob as if they genuflect.
It is osiet and ouzel;
a magnified round
of tidal skies
bringing inundation
to ear and eye.
This slight cathedral
of stalks and webbing
is far from mundane:
mud-weighted stooks
creak with bird cries
– Jane McKie
Les Montremots
Le feuille s’egrene
Tract de jambes
Le flux a poing-clapotis
Au sortir de la pluie
Gouffres en moelle de givre
L’egout de seins
Parabole d’algues a feu
L’orge de la flamme.
The leaf drops off
Tract of legs
The flow of lapping hands
At the end of rain
Gulfs of rime marrow
Bosom storm drain
Parabola of algae aflame
Barley of love.
January 1968 – March 1970

– Michel Bulteau
trans. Mary Folliet
Seize Ans
A seize ans, on a le caractere romanesque et sombre. Les amplis ne
sont pas encore eteints. Pour une jeune fille, se deguiser en homme.
c’est se preparer a mourir d’un coup de poignard dans le cœur.
Entendu sur l’herbe,un corps tres leger. La grand œuvre des poetes:
nul engagement, nulle chaîne.” Pitoyable film a rebours, helas sans
carapace ni firmament orchestre. Des feux nocturnes, une girouette
parlant a la lune. Joseph d’Arimathie somnambule dans les flonflons
bleus. Enseignes barbouillees, mauvais reves, disgraces.
M. P. avec sa montre au bracelet usage, portait Jicky, la parfum de
l’imperatrice. Dehors, franchissant le brouillard et la ligne d’arbres, des
bruits de voiture. Maison de Milly, du soleil sur le parterre fleuri et les
marches usees. Divinites sylvestres, lions tombes des etoiles.
At sixteen, one is romantic and gloomy
the amps aren’t turned off yet.
for a young girl to dress up like a man
is to prepare to die from a stab to the heart.
Lying on the grass, a very light body
The great work of poets: “no commitments,
no chain.” Pitiful film in reverse, alas
without carapace or orchestrated firmament.
Nocturnal fies, a weather cock speaking
to the moon, Joseph of Arimathea
sleepwalking in the blue oompahpahs.
Smeared signs, bad dreams, disgraces.
M. P. with her wathc with worn wristband,
Wore JICKY, the perfume of the empress.
Outside, clearing the fog and the line
of trees, the sound of cars. House of
Milly, sun on the flowering border and
worn steps. Silvan divinities, lions fallen
from the stars.
– Michel Bulteau
trans. Mary Folliet
Inevitable Collapse
whin th’ ice-caps
melted n’yi wir
aw at sea, whin
everest finally crumbled,
oor voices woke yi.
too late,
too late-
an inevitable
iz they put yi
in th’ ambulance
n’ wi remember yi
sayin’ in th’ dreekit
night, at th’ back-
door thit yi wir
offski, yi wir gaun’
back ti yir roots
– Rodney Relax
Forbidden Fruit
Against Egyptian gold
the innards of a pomegranate
are revealed
like a skull cracked open
on hot pavement
uncovering a seedy brain –
fat tissue and cartilage encasing
tart gems.
So much work
to separate flesh from gristle
like counting pennies
in the bank –
enough time to think
is it worth an existence in hell?
– Lauren Pope
Three Poems About Poetry
A rainy day
is good for a poem.
Let’s run it along the street
shaking off the rain and roam
where it can, and even greet
those whose minds are open to
a new idea, a little change
to strike a spark that will go through
imagination, even thought
and out of bondage habit range
into magic as it ought.
How short
can a poem be?
Just enough to set you free.
There are those who hate poetry
and there are may out of fear
of a world where money does not count
and their self-importance would
crumbled into dust.
I pity them. They’ll never know
how to others they’ll appear
or off all the things they cannot buy
because their gold is only rust,
and when they draw their final breath
they’ll realise life was always death.


– John Calder