Yellow and Black

SO, fresh (or not so fresh) back from the SNP’s Spring Conference 2015, which even for a confirmed cynic like myself was an interesting & enlivening experience – not least on account of the frail yet steely presence of Nicola Sturgeon, who must be fast becoming the very embodiment of Wee Ma Scotland – I delved into the files of recent poetry and there found the very thing: something black and yellow!

Master of irrelevance that I am, the black and yellow reference in the poem below is not to the colour-scheme so much in evidence in the SECC in Glasgow this past weekend, but to an image in the I Ching, a work I frequently mine for its images (being, as it is, the ultimate Poetic Grammar, as Robert Graves called his White Goddess, itself a remarkable work though nothing like as old or as elegant). I say irrelevance but who knows? in a work as mysterious and – well, downright odd as the Book of Changes, perhaps there was someone in the China of three thousand years ago who was already aware of our current political scene in Scotland and, maybe, was not fully convinced that there was no longer a worm in the foundations of the Scottish house. Who can say? That’s not my business: my business is only to set it out as it came to me sometime earlier in the year. (I think the nonsense reference may be to Dan Brown.)


Black and Yellow

Dragons fight in the meadow
their blood is black and yellow:
how will the warring end
the tattered leaves redden?
The cows peer on in silence.
I don’t think they can be at peace
not today, perhaps not ever

That sky is too large
this earth too intractable.
But straight, square, great
the building was to have grown
singing to have been heard
through each open door
dialogue at every window

Shame on the viper
who set them at odds
who came armed and ready
little else on the agenda
gnawed at the foundations
of a good house, so little
by little the soft dust gathered.

Long before the coming of
the Magdalen, she had been
rhymed into a nonsense
the chattering of legions of fools
drowned her out.

How could the rare bird nest
amidst all that commotion
the car parks full, the binoculars
the tattered plastic in the branches
it was always a doomed enterprise.

They say that Jesus
drove seven devils out of her;
he must have been a tired
lad by the end. But then to
stretch himself out, like a curtain
so that she could work in peace –

well, one swallow
doesn’t make a summer
and you can make
stories till the cows come home.


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