Bear’s Breeks: an irregular ode

‘I want for my part
 Only the little white rose of Scotland’                
                                                 Hugh MacDiarmid


The acanthus of rather a lot of Mediterranean countries is not for me.
I want for my part
Only the Bear’s Breeks of Greece
Of which one might exclaim:
O Attic Shape! Hot pastoral!
What attitude this national flower displays!
It teases us out of constipation and shooteth forth
Very many large sad green smooth leaves
Upon the gound with a very thick
And juicy middle rib.

It has inspired Corinthian columns,
Is very good for tea
And is in the Bible.
In fonder moments
Think of it as cousin
To the thistle.

It is an excellent good plant
Under the dominion of the moon.
In clisters it mollifies the belly
And makes the passage slippery.
It unites shattered bones and strengthens
Joints that have been put well and truly out.
It is absolutely ace for the king’s evil
That is broken and runneth.

In short, it restores radical moisture.



David Kinloch is from Glasgow. He is the author of five books of poems, the most recent being Finger of a Frenchman (Carcanet, 2011) and a chapbook, Some Women (Happenstance, 2014). He is currently Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at the University of Strathclyde.


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