This Burns Day we bring you two legendary beasts of Scotland: one famous for having two of its four legs shorter that the others, apparently from continually running round the sides of mountains; the second so nebulous as to defy any definite sightings but vital, nonetheless, to the tourist economy of its supposed habitat. Rarely if ever sighted in the wild, the Haggis is, even so, frequently found butchered by ‘rustic labour’, its ‘gushing entrails’ forming the heart of the feast in celebration of our national bard. One wonders whether the continual devastation of the creatures’ numbers every January is placing them under threat. Maybe this week’s poem can hint at an answer as we hope its partner can hint at a sighting. For none other than Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, is our second mythical beast. Supposedly first spotted by St Columba in the 6th century, the poor creature must have had such a shock from its encounter with the holy man that it didn’t show its face again for over a millennium. It certainly has enough space to take refuge in, Loch Ness holding more water that the combined volume of every single inland lake in Britain. Not until the invention of the camera did the monster put in another appearance. Maybe it was just preparing for its close up.
by David Kinloch
(bein a post-Brexit owresettin o the poem ‘Une Charogne’ by Charles Baudelaire. Wi bits missed oot.)
D’ye mind yon thingummy we seen, hen,
wan mochie back-end day:
jist at the kink o the close, a collop o flesh
jirbled its guts wi a blasé
an cynical wink: a haggis
impaled oan the rail.
It dreeplt an drappit
an grat an slittered,
turned the stairfit intae a stew,
an aw the midgies and maukies
that steyed up the close
thocht heiven had come tae the Drum.
They crowled oan the tripe.
They fucked in the thairms.
They mooched in the painch.
The skin roiled oan its ane.
An the stink! The stink
Was a stink lik a stank.
Och wha cud blame the wee dug
– Mrs Henderson’s pug –
fur startin a tug-o-war.
You tugged an it tugged,
we aw tugged thegither
an the haggis jauped fae its poke.
Ma angel, ma passion, hale countries
o offal tottered ooty the close
an ah hud a veesion o transmugrification:
ma luv a huge haip o a haggis,
– yon bonnie lichts an heid cheese –
in aw the lingos o Europe.
There are yer tootsies ah sae luv tae suck:
Latin pajata and Romany drob;
yer tummy is trippa, yer airms herzgulasch,
yon bubbies are – aw man – jist lampredotto,
yer throat’s a rerr rognon
an yer neb’s andouillette.
Lass, len me yer blood tongue,
auld Scoatland’s haggis creole,
In time o need your meats
are whaur extremes meet
a fleur o Europe at the close stairheid.
Nessie To The Unaccompanied Minor
by Claire Askew
Like you, I was unmoored – all my kind
dying – and like you, I’d heard
there may be safe port in this land.
The bottle of the sea loch stoppered.
I watched its neck – through millennia
quick as an eyeblink – narrow, narrow
and I could not move. I was not like you:
couldn’t trust my heart, my own
little outboard motor.
But like you, I know what it means
to be hunted: to have nets cast
in your wake, nets barbed
with all the ways they’d like to take
you apart. Out, they send their boats
to find us: out, and out. The search-
lights glitter on the loch like spilt fuel.
As if we don’t know boltholes! The art
of disappearing oneself among the rocks.
(They want to find us, but
they also do not.)
Monster to tabloid monster: I’m sorry –
you’re starting a loneliness I know
only too much of. This loch
is a big drum I rattle through,
fin over fin, flick over seized old tail sick
of swimming. I’m singing, if
you can bear to be near water
any more. The song goes
alone, alone, alone –
but you know that.
It’s the only song you’ve ever sung.
David Kinloch has published five collections of poetry, the last three with Carcanet Press. His next book, In Search of Dustie-Fute, is forthcoming from Carcanet in 2017. He is currently Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at the University of Strathclyde.
Claire Askew‘s debut poetry collection is This changes things (Bloodaxe, 2016): shortlisted for the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award and the Saltire First Book Prize. Claire is also a novelist, and her debut novel-in-progress won the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh, and lives in Edinburgh.
Images courtesy of;
Claire Askew photo courtesy of Sally Jubb Photography