Monday, October 20, 2014

Poems from Scotland

Three Poems by the Scottish poet Stephen Watt

Dunoon Girl

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.

The Slugger

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
until.................. enough.

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

to Hell. 

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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.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Thaddeus Rutkowski: Two Poems

Two new poems by Thaddeus Rutkowski, reproduced here from a broadsheet published by

Anarchist Manifesto

I believe in anarchy.
but not if everybody goes wild.

I want to be the only wild one,
among the law abiding citizens.

I want to be the hyperactive youngster
among the fuddy-duddies.

I want to run amok
while everyone else goose-steps.

I want to be the loon among the obedient geese.

Hong Kong

I wanted to eat fried scorpions,
or at least crispy grasshoppers.
But instead I ate chicken a la king at a KFC.
I was told snake was a popular food,
and the idea of snake struck me,
but the reality was, snake was out of season.

I expected everyone to be traveling
by scooter or bicycle, or on foot,
but I saw lots of cars, no simple conveyances,
and a vanishing network of hutongs, or alleys.
All signaled a consumerist system,
not a Communist colony.

Nubs of incense sticks sat in ash-filled burners
at doorsteps as if to ward off bad luck:
recession, financial breakdown,
a tip in the balance of trade,
loss of shelter from taxes or typhoons.
These were the Asian business risks.

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Thaddeus Rutkowski grew up in central Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Cornell University and The Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of the novels Haywire(Starcherone/Dzanc), Tetched (Behler Publications) and Roughhouse (Kaya Press). All three books were finalists for an Asian American Literary Award, and Haywire won the Members' Choice Award, given by members of the Asian American Writers Workshop. Haywire reached No. 1 on Small Press Distribution's fiction best-seller list. Tetched was chosen as one of the best books reviewed in 2006 by Chronogram magazine. You can find out more on his website:

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