Postcards From Malthusia DAY SEVENTY-EIGHT: Marcas Mac an Tuairneir

Births, Deaths and Marriages

“We should have planned this sooner,”
she says,
turning the pages of
Perfect Wedding.
His head now raised,
the sunlight of a Spring-time Sunday,
illuminates her face.

In his arms,
the baby gurgles,
as if to respond to the mobile,
which blinks,
as if it’s urgent,
though inverted on the coffee table.

“Had you better get that?”
she asks.
He stares back, blankly.

Jabbing thumb on the remote,
she censors the BBC newsreader,
before the themetune’s thudding percussion,
might echo, ominous, around the room.

“It’s just Dad,”
he replies,
eyes trained on the new boy’s crown.
“He went out for a paper
when the name was released.”

Somewhere,
in the Telegraph’s middle pages,
a journalist confirms
a six-week-old,
the youngest, here, to die.

The sex,
the exact day of the passing,
yet unclear,
it seems this statistic,
previously uncounted,
might just be tacked onto today’s.

He scans the paragraph for an
identity, but it remains
anonymous in the whitespace
between the lines of newsprint.
Privacy at this time
was the parents’ request.

“Did we register the birth?”
he asks,
folds the paper so the
rugger might be perused.

“Yes, of course, ”
she answers.
“The registrar came round,
but you had left the room.”

 

 

Mark Spencer Turner is an award-winning poet, playwright and singer-songwriter based in Edinburgh. He writes in Gaelic and in Irish as Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, as well as in English. His forthcoming third collection, the trilingual ‘Dùileach’ (‘Elemental’) is hotly anticipated from Evertype later this year. Check out his blog at www.staing.net

Postcards from Malthusia DAY SEVENTY-SEVEN: Amy B. Moreno

Self-Isolation

 

A gallery of house plants and house cats
Faces pressed against screens and glass
Traffic and time loose; worries slip through quicker
Guts twisted and bound, like woven wicker
Plans to paper over cracks, and timetable schooling
Imagination cookies sit on the rack, cooling
She could hang the praying-hand picture hooks
But she shuffles her feet
        
  and her pennies
                
  and her unread books
In a tower built of plans and hopes and stone
Under a cloud maze of wheezing bones
A pause coughs in the street below
And she sits and she watches at the window

 

 

Amy B. Moreno writes poetry and prose for adults and children, in English, Scots, and Spanish.  She has recently been published by The London Reader, Scottish Book Trust, The Ogilvie Literary Review, Seahorse Publisher, and Poetry Kit. You can connect with her in Twitter @Amy_B_Moreno

Postcards from Malthusia DAY SEVENTY-SIX: Steve Griffiths

 We knew how to make it

 

The NHS is a talisman.

The stories lose their anchor in these winds.

What we love is stripped of function

then revealed anew.

 

What we had done was magicked from our hands.

Is this too much to ask:

on our skew-whiff plot of blather,

can we make the motor go again

 

when we’ve forgotten how,

heads together, all found in the task?

It’s both new and old,

this line from the physician and the midwife

 

to the app and back again,

stopping on the way to listen

to patient, neighbour, child and citizen.

Then get what wants telling told.

 

 

Steve Griffiths is a poet and former poverty and health inequality researcher, always a campaigner.  His Weathereye: Selected Poems appeared last year.    www.stevegriffithspoet.com

Postcards from Malthusia DAY SEVENTY-FIVE: Jim Carruth

Warning Signs

Each day and night we’ve walked the shed

checking for evidence of fever, a dullness

among the young and vulnerable

or a cough we’ve witnessed in the past

spreading like a slow moving wave

from pen to pen, leaving small corpses

as crumpled sacks in its wake.

Painful lessons have been learned

so old herdsman you do not let me forget

that prevention is key for survival

so the timing and quality of colostrum

is vital; castration and disbudding

should be carried out away from weaning.

Any additional stresses reduce immunity

so limit transport in the first few weeks.

Avoid overcrowding – early separation

and isolation can save lives you remind me

as earlier, sweat drenched, you wrestled a calf.

Be wary of underlying conditions like scour.

Shelter the future herd from cold and wet.  

Clean bedding – do not skimp on straw.

Fresh air at calf level but not a draught.

Avoid extremes – it is all about looking

for a perfect balance,  one you tell me

that has been lost from this world.

Everything is connected – pigs, civets,

camels, bats. Again your hoarse bark

interrupts your flow as you nod to the valley

where a city inherits the silence of the hill.

Don’t ignore the small signs, before the big.

We’ve stretched and torn mother nature.

How often have you told me all of this

your teaching almost inbred, a hefting.

Today I pay more attention to you, your breath.

 

 

Jim Carruth is the current Poet Laureate of Glasgow. He is also one of the founders and current chair of St Mungo’s Mirrorball, a network of Glasgow-based poets, and is the artistic adviser for StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival. His work has previously been shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize and the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize. His most recent collection Bale Fire came out in 2019.

Postcards from Malthusia DAY SEVENTY-FOUR: Cath Campbell

Herd Immunity

 

Rewilded, nature covers half-fall brick walls.

Dig deep. There may even be an older village,

other bones. 

 

The council breezed through last night. 

 

This morning, small critters; moles, 

hedgehogs, field mice, lay side by side 

on dead-weed paths, exposed. 

 

Those who live, says the woman on the phone,

will be tougher the next time round,

although, assuredly, we only use animal safe products here.

 

 

Cath Campbell, a retired probation officer who lives in Northumberland, regards her poems as dystopian/political, and has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies including Poetry 24, The Writers Cafe magazine, Prole, Obsessed with Pipework, Erbacce and #Me Too; A Womans Poetry Anthology.

Postcards from Malthusia DAY SEVENTY-THREE: David Linklater

The New Measurements

 

Video from home. Beach stones leading

to the water, the water of no language,

no measurements, with its slack body

no less certain of the outcome.

 

Tell the birds. Knowing no different

they go about their particulars, italicising

a stoop of branches. It took an hour

for the flower head to meter its way downriver.

 

Motorways thinned like the blood of a drunk.

A spectral trumpet call from some far-off city

peering over the border, the sky bolt-tight.

Animals run unleashed from it all.

 

Subtleties, a slightly wider berth.

Another inch to the pond, that extra gill.

Conversation through glass panes – the last

flight from here will take you nowhere.

 

The outside people get their fill,

mouths dressed in a new, strange vocabulary.

And hinged to their windows, their scopes,

the inside people lean out.

 

 

David Linklater is a poet from Balintore, Easter Ross. His work has appeared in GutterGlasgow Review of BooksDMQ Review and Ink, Sweat & Tears. He has been the recipient of a Dewar Arts Award and was recently shortlisted for the 2020 Edwin Morgan Award. His pamphlet Black Box was published in 2018 with Speculative Books. He lives and writes in Glasgow. Twitter: @DavidRossLinkla

Postcards from Malthusia DAY SEVENTY-TWO: Lynn Valentine

Waiting

 

Red Kites still answer,

wheel and call,

call, answer, call.

 

First curlew of the season

jabs at hard ground.

 

Crows swallow oats

cast from her hand.

 

Other mouths to feed,

needing more than porridge.

 

Hands to wash

other than her own.

 

All she can do is call,

stitch, mend, call, unravel

stitch, call, mend again.

 

 

Lynn Valentine lives on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. Her work has been published widely, including Atrium, Northwords Now, The Blue Nib and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She is organising her first poetry collection under the mentorship of Cinnamon Press after winning a place on their Pencil mentoring competition for 2020.

Postcards from Malthusia DAY SEVENTY-ONE: Knotbrook Taylor

Psalm 102: ‘shun ye the vortex’

 

taut-faced Madonna sitting in her milky bath

surrounded by floating petals

she’s hunched up to her knees: all wet

talking about the great equaliser: and all going down together

rich and poor: her knuckles white as she grips the taps

 

I walk up the stairs

I walk down the stairs

 

Trump rambling about a wonder drug

used for treating malaria: it might work here

says he is feeling good: says he’s feeling optimistic

denies that America is afraid: he is afraid

 

I walk up the stairs

I walk down the stairs

 

pubs have stayed open in defiance

people insist on a party

curfew is threatened

if we don’t stay at home

 

13 steps and several dust angels

clinging to the risers

 

yesterday spoke to my neighbour

over the garden fence

works in a lab

said the big V: more infectious than flu

 

reach the top of the stairs

wonder how I got there

slowly walk back down

 

 

 

Knotbrook Taylor is an Angus-based poet, winner of the 2014 Erbacce Prize for his collection Ping-Pong In The Rain.  His poems have also appeared in Scottish Lighthouse Poems (2011) and Beatitudes (2007).  www.knotbrook.co.uk