Three Poems by the Scottish poet Stephen Watt
Our visit to Dunoon coincided with pellets of sleet
beating off the shorefront glass.
The statue of Highland Mary, now the centre
of a rain dance by the ducks, stared across to Largs
as though love had been swept out to sea, and on to jagged rocks.
In my mother-in-law’s tiny kitchen, stacks of cushions
submerged a flowery couch, converted into a makeshift bed.
Someone was once murdered here, she flippantly said.
The clutter kept me awake; several calendars
circling special dates, magnets on tenterhooks,
shelves of dusty, old books
and large, rustic boat hooks
aligned every square inch of that room.
Wind chimes tinkled from suspended tubes at the window,
invading silence the same way a whistling kettle
unsettles the skittish ilk, and spills midnight tea
with jiggling spouts of milk.
Level with the washing machine, my mobile signal
was lost in the swirl of Argyll draughts
overwhelming telephone masts.
Creaks of floorboards behind the kitchen door
led to short, sharp barks; a small dog,
curious to know why his sleeping basket was out of bounds.
The fading purr of someone’s drunken laugh
wisped into the fairy glens like leaves rustled on the ground.
My love, extinguished as an oil lamp,
drifts on dreams of fields of blooms,
dried and scattered across a ballroom
where every dance is a first; and the last.
When the night had passed and dawn’s mask
was removed from the sapphire irises of the Clyde,
dark crescent moons hung beneath my eyes
like the tragic past of the girl
who stands alone upon Dunoon’s dockside.
Boxers orbit one another.
Cerise gloves, poised like garter snake tongues,
flick claret blurs during stomach churning voids;
the hawk-screech noise from the crowd,
mirrored on each gambler’s puss.
Cameramen battle for the final cut.
Screw shots, headlocks, trapped against the ropes,
r e l e a s e – mouth guards exposed.
Hook. Hammer blow. Buckled legs, floored.
Who; what; when – on A Question Of Sport.
The bell liberates. Rise to feet.
Reputation is a sweated towel never thrown in defeat.
Squinted helmets realign
with flags of bruises upon punctured cheeks.
Glory is a fighter who refuses to concede.
Jab, face – jab, ear – jab, gut.
Journalist’s words on the back and front pages
become larger and more ostentatious
as each punch expels blood, BLOOD, BLOOD
The medal is gold. Your hometown is now famous.
The smell hit her, like the back of his hand.
She was only ten the last time she was here,
but nothing had changed.
Photographs of old Protestant Belfast
inside of grotty little picture frames
remained as threatening as two decades past.
The arms of his chair, black from mechanic’s hands
and oil rags, a forty-fags-a-day habit
which littered his carpet with tobacco and roach ends.
The caravan with no wheels, visible in the back yard
as it always was, where she and her friends
used to have sleepovers on occasional weekends:
Him, at the kitchen window, pretending to wash
the dinner dishes.
She rubs her arms as she climbs upstairs –
the third top step still host of the eeriest creak;
the warning shot to be asleep.
Teddy bears sit on top of the cupboard, a handpicked, hand-stitched jury
without a verdict, silenced by a pervert’s sewn smile
and cold, glass eyes –
a child’s word versus alibi’s.
She remembers it all.
When her aunt left for the Bingo, he would
wrap her yo-yo string round her neck,
starting with dry humps and soft pecks on her cheek.
Then the next week, and the next week, and the next week...
The laughter and screams emanating from tents
over the fence where the scout hall stood
was a world away; a clandestine brotherhood.
Now, as the only remaining living relative,
she sees her childhood for what it was –
ruined, tainted, wasted, crushed.
She gathers firewood and petrol,
and turns everything he ever owned
into a sacrificial offering
* * *
* * *
Stephen Watt is a poet and performer from Dumbarton, Scotland. His debut collection 'Spit' was published in 2012, and he has since won a number of slams and competitions including Poetry Rivals, StAnza Digital Poetry Slam, and Tartan Treasures. Performances across the Glasgow, Falkirk and Edinburgh areas of Scotland, plus festival appearances at Eden and Wickerman, have enhanced Stephen's reputation as one of the exciting new talents emerging from the Scottish spoken word scene during 2014.
You can follow his progress via the Twitter handle and Facebook links below.