Four Poems

Poetry
Judith Taylor


Photo Credit: Amy/Flickr (CC-by)

Hindsight

Funny how old illusions stay.
I want to write: when the long black car
came for me, curtains flickered
all over the building

and where I used to live
it would have been true.
They knew me better, there
than I knew myself, so they believed

but here in the city
it’s a different story. People go to the city
not to be known, or not
to be asked for.

Eyes don’t meet.
When even the most unlikely
awful thing draws up at your door
you know your neighbours will

turn up their distraction
so as not to hear how your footstep on the stair
is taking you out to meet
whatever it is that’s waiting.

And it finds you
as you chose to be, as you came here
in the hope you’d be. Unremarkable.  And
alone.

 

Underway

Dark water now. Water you find
when you descend to the foundations
a torch in hand, a handkerchief at your mouth.

It has been waiting all this time.
It knows about cemeteries

and timber piles in the banks of missing rivers
under the avenues.

It is water the fish would die of
water the rats go out of their way
never to cross. Not cold, precisely:

but where it touches you
you’ll never be warm again.

Its scent will cling to you,
evaporate with your footprints

and anyone coming close to you will know
you’ve been a cellar-swimmer, skin-to-skin
with shadows.

But what to do
when you find yourself surrounded?
Nothing but

step down
and into a boat as tremulous as an aspen leaf
hoping whatever steers it

is a breath of air that has strayed in
from the bright world

and not some ancient current
deep beneath it, taking you down-
stream

on a heading you find
you can’t change

so gently
into the dark.

 

The Gift

Somebody gave me
two trees, as an emblem of endurance
or permanence, or the like
without a warning.

I was living
in an unfashionable district of the city, then
at a small hotel
best described as spartan:

they were good about the trees though
which arrived while I was out.

They had a narrow strip of garden
off to the side. When I got back
they had already planted the holly
and were digging a hole for the sycamore

which lay full-length on the pavement
its roots carefully packed, its leaves
grey and brittle, traumatised
by the long way it had travelled.

I stroked its bark and wondered
if it was going to survive.
And since they had everything under control there
I went inside, to telephone the giver.

I was going to say
the gift had fairly summed him up:

more trouble than he was worth.
That the hotel and I were pretending
the garden was a temporary measure
but we both knew

I wouldn’t add a couple of trees to my baggage when I checked out.
Which day seemed suddenly nearer now.

He wasn’t there
and I didn’t leave a message. I took a long breath
and went to talk to the concierge
and organise some water.

 

Here I Go

the sun’s late
and the sky is still
indigo but I’m
not staying for fanfares
or a sunrise

I’m stepping out in the cool
morning
knowledge of where
these boots are walking

stepping out
in the dark of a night that lingers
as I do not linger

one bird
in a bush to give me
warning notes as I pass
but I’m singing bye
bye birdie

care and woe
and everything
in the blue bag
with the polka-dots on the lining

and an early train
my destination

there will be light above us
when we reach the river
full sun
when we find the sea beside us
for the journey

voyager
now
it’s time

for stepping out
with your low
shoes and your settled mind
a whole day
out there is
where you’re going

pencil

Judith Taylor lives in Aberdeen, Scotland, where she works in IT. Her poetry has been published widely in magazines, and in two pamphlet collections: Earthlight (Koo Press, 2006) and Local Colour (Calder Wood Press, 2010). Her first full-length collection, Not in Nightingale Country, will be published in Autumn 2017 by Red Squirrel Press. Email: j.taylor.09[at]btinternet.com

Alcaics: on a hashtag

Beaver’s Pick
Judith Taylor


Photo Credit: baldeaglebluff/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Photo Credit: baldeaglebluff/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

What happened? Who knows? No one can read a mind
scroll back the thoughts like seismograph traces, see
just where the quake struck. We are left here
sifting the wreckage for scraps, for reasons

—some prop that gave way, broke under sudden shock,
brought down the whole house. Then we could make ourselves
safe, make our own house safe: the next quake
won’t pull us down, we’ll be ready for it.

It’s that we’re human. That’s what we do. We make
home, shelter; fire, hearth. Structures to keep us safe.
Crops, pasture, fields hacked out of dark woods;
calendars, numbers against the vast sky

that drifts above us. Patterns of when and why:
verse; music; carved stones. Pictures and glossaries.
Faith, hope and love. Just law and mercy.
Everything keeping us sure of our selves,

each other’s selves. So much we can only take
on trust, and walk as if we believe there’s ground
to bear our weight. We have a place here,
that’s what we say in the frightened, quiet time

we try so hard not ever to give ourselves.
We have a home; if not a place, a tribe.
Kith, kin. Or one heart somewhere for us.
Structures we build on a spinning planet

we need to tell each other we trust in still.
If one looks down, looks over the edge, we might
all fall. We need these explanations
—not why a house tumbled down, but why ours

still stands. That hashtag, something we need to hear:
depression lies, we tell ourselves. Something struck
this house or that; some monster drew this
person or that to their self-destruction.

Sounds like a glib line, telling you what you feel’s
false: silence once more slapped over what you know.
More, though, it’s our own mind we talk down,
begging it, almost, to give us good news

tell us we’re part of a world we think true,
can live in, can think we belong in.
We build the house still, tremulous as the ground is.
Stay, please, we say. Stay. Help us to keep it standing.

pencilJudith Taylor comes from Perthshire and now lives and works in Aberdeen, Scotland. Her poetry has appeared widely in magazines and she is the author of two pamphlet collections — Earthlight, (Koo Press, 2006), and Local Colour (Calder Wood Press, 2010). Her first full-length collection will be published by Red Squirrel Press in 2017. Email: j.taylor.09[at]btinternet.com

Wish

Poetry
Judith Taylor


Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan (CC-by-sa)

Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan (CC-by-sa)

I don’t want death driving
something delicate, like a carriage:
I don’t want Gentleman Death

in his long black car
shimmering by to take me away.
To have to maintain polite

conversation with Death, of all the people!
No. Send me a death
dull and true

in charge of a heavy ox-cart;
with a load to haul, and no concern
for anything in his road.

Death in a shapeless hat,
his old clay cutty not even lit
as he stares away

towards his destination,
never looking to see what caused
that jolt.

A Death who does not stop
and who is mercifully uncaring.
And maybe his oxen look to see

where they put their feet
but the solid timber wheels
do not discriminate.

On the day I hear that wagon rumble
I will lie down to wait.

pencilJudith Taylor comes from Perthshire and now lives and works in Aberdeen, Scotland. Her poetry has appeared widely in magazines and she is the author of two pamphlet collections — Earthlight, (Koo Press, 2006), and Local Colour (Calder Wood Press, 2010). Her first full-length collection will be published by Red Squirrel Press in 2017. Email: j.taylor.09[at]btinternet.com