Something for Shooting Season

This is a poem from a couple of months back, when I noticed shooting had begun amongst us for another year. It doesn’t particularly relate to the question of land ownership in Scotland, which was the focus of an interesting evening in Glenbuchat Hall a couple of nights back with Andy Wightman, who is a bit of a star in this field – passionate but with a solid foundation of fact: an irresistable combination. It took me a while to find the place in the dark and the mist and the windy roads with the inevitable speedy Alex’s up my tail all the way from Huntly , but others didn’t seem to have too much problem as it was surprisingly well attended and I should think the good offices of Deveron Arts are to be credited for this to a large degree.

 

 
Mirror Men

There’s a crackle of gunfire down in the woods.
It’s Thursday and the guys have gathered to wring a little
sport out of a legion of half-tame pheasants.
I suppose there’s someone in Syria or Kurdistan
who’d smile at the peaceable nature of the pursuit;
and the birds don’t think too much about it, I’m told

But I, who have lived my life in this northern
corner of the Empire, I have a lot of thoughts
and although I don’t imagine I’m in a war-zone
I don’t hear much nourishment spelled out
by this constant tattoo, need having at least
been a rationale down the bloody ages

And what I do hear is the devastation meted
out on the Land, only now it’s amplified
by the impotencies of my years – you don’t know of them
maybe, or think you don’t, but in fact they’re imps
that have gathered since you were twenty-five
and what began as a murmur swells

To a full-blooded ruckus in your ears, and long before
it’s become unbearable, you can make out meanings
laughter and words you confuse with laughter
fiddlesticks baloney and balderdash and bollocks
fathead and bampot and womble and wanker
(loser and daft old bugger form only the last chapter);

You see, they’re a chorus programmed to bring
your best hopes down, it’s a Darwin thing
for the purpose is to prepare you, so you’ll crawl
with some relief into the grave, you won’t waste time
hanging about in the way and using up
assets that the young and hopeful need –

Forgetfulness is the other thing, but don’t fool yourself
we don’t forget, we old cronies, we don’t forget
that the Land once belonged to itself, and when first
we came pushing in, we took up as little as we could
and pushed along if others came to join us
who was the daft old bugger that forgot this?

Someone with a loudmouthed shotgun, more likely
some bright spark with little education
who went crashing through the wood and bellowed words
but not so the trees could hear, some baloney
about who was fittest and who was God’s anointed
words that had no meaning, practised for years

in the hall of mirrors in some imperial hub
where the legion of their own kind reflected to
and fro stretched on infinitely until reflection
could not contain it and it burst into reality
a dark infection covering all the land
so that war in the woods would go on forever.

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