In our house even euphemism
was upwardly mobile.
‘Mum I need to be clever’
meant ‘Mum I need to take a dump’.
There were always elephants
in the room. Like Hannibal’s,
inching their big cartoon
bodies over the Alps.
At school I loved their impossibility
and did a project on them.
As Hannibal did. As scientists
are doing, digging in alpine bogs
beneath the Col de Traversette.
They’ve found compacted
ruminant faeces and set their hopes
on an elephant tapeworm egg.
Clever-clogs the lot of them!
‘Don’t squeeze so hard’, Mum
says. Global warming will soon thaw
out all the crap and there we’ll be:
big dead animals slithering
down the rainbow to our crock
of shit: the stink of history.
after Sandro Botticelli
If an angel
If an angel stopped.
Stopped in the lane before our barn
or the turreted castle and turned
to embrace me — oh the hugs,
oh the stopping and stopping! --
I would brush aside wings
and shake his hand. I would
dance all the friendly angels
out of their domes, their stables.
Why even the seven small devils
shake crestfallen hands
before heading to hell.
May I turn to you then,
as the child
in the manger turns
from his swaddling shroud.
Unfold the wings of your palms
like a gamp. You remember the loosening rain?
The dull, earthly weather? How
we shared the braille of our lifelines,
those touching gifts?
Was this in our lifetime? Now,
loose the arm from the shoulder,
the right one, the left one, re-
member the hand, cross
the painting’s meridian
just into the lane by the barn.
David Kinloch was born in Glasgow and educated at Glasgow and Oxford Universities. He is the author of five collections of poems, the most recent being In Search of Dustie-Fute (Carcanet, 2017) which was shortlisted for the Saltire Poetry Award. For many years a teacher of French language and literature, he began to teach creative writing in 2003. He retired recently from full-time teaching and is currently Emeritus Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. In the 1980s, he co-founded the literary journal, Verse, which he edited for ten years with the poets, Robert Crawford, Henry Hart and Richard Price. In the ‘naughties’ he organised a literary exchange between Scotland and Switzerland, helped to found the Scottish Writers’ Centre and set up the first Edwin Morgan poetry competition. He is currently the Chair of The Edwin Morgan Trust which supports the work of emerging Scottish poets.