The Twelve Seasons


Here, along with some photographs from the winter of 2009 (by my partner Rona MacDonald), is the last in my sequence of poems which documented the changing seasons throughout 2014. I read some of these out the other night at the SWC Party, my farewell to the organisation, as 2015 offers a Tabula Rasa blank as snow. I started these with February, so happily presenting the January poem now enables me to add the other 11 on afterwards, so that they may all be read in sequence. Happy birth of Mithras to all my dear friends and enemies.


1. January

Toe and bootGilmorehill
crunch and slither
ice and frost
snow falls forever
glimmer sparkle
amid the dark until
at last the stars themselves
not lost, aglow as though they
have been brought down, reversed
the universe itself upended
the blackness of space freezing
fills my veins and eases the pulse
towards eternity’s slow turn
of Catherine wheels of galaxies
all life suspended, look
at that which does not live
can at least no longer die
I fall, cry out, lose my grip
grapple, topple, slip and dip
lose consciousness
and on my back, upended
find sleep, perfection
my face a landscape
sculpted by lost memory
scoured by winds
forgotten by light
as life abates
turns tides
and seeds abide
and wait.

2. February

Watercolour sunrise paints itself
glimpsed through my curtains
waking from the torpor of
a dream of lost youth
some bitter message from
Morpheus, Hypnos, Nyx
the dream gods, about how
I have never fitted anywhere
nor cared for people much
the ever-optimistic birds chirping
out there, as if they can pull-off
this illegally early spring
without the grey wardens
of Presbyterian boredom
apprehending them under the terms
of the curtailment of fun and laughter act
good luck to them I say go little guys
the crows survey the street
like passing dive bombers
strafing us with their wry
laughs of ancient cynicism
building nests already
from all that wreckage of blasted branches
strewn by the January gales
everything is opportunity
a new Jerusalem in every Babel
only trust in it, Life whispers
part those curtains, embrace light
spread those dusty wings, take flight
take risks, let Winter’s chill lick clean
your wounds and heal and build
as all beginnings might.

3. March

March is the month that birthed me
the year’s start in ancient times
when war and farming resumed
the encyclopaedia tells us
without apparent irony as if
such happy pursuits have long been
humanity’s sport and always will be
conflict and building, a fair summation
of my lot upon this earth
intertwined: destruction and creation
love, its planting, and its dearth.
And Caesar’s reckoning too
those portentous ides, he mocked his seer
ignored the whispers in his burning ear
and paid the price, sunk beneath the tides
of time. There is no crime fate recognises
save blindness to the forces of the coming year.
Like he, I should consent to go as I have come
with flowers budding and birds singing
do not resist, amidst a feast for eye and ear
blood spilt and church bells ringing.

4. April

In a single week
Spring springs in Glasgow
a leaping jock-in-the-box
a dance of veils
the brittle whalebone filigree
of kohl-black branches
suddenly cloaked in spreading fans
green silk feathers flickering teasingly
amid the pom-poms of candy-floss blossom
bobbing on the breeze of promise
the lithe branches bend, coquettish
the sap rising to the overture of birdsong
recalling every childhood summer
the first remembered whispering
of the rest to come.

5. May

The wisps of cloud above
whipped to cappuccino froth
sighing in the endless drink of blue
all human drama dissolves
the sun become our heartbeat
boiling off irksome mirages
stale excess of time and angst
The garden erupts into colour
invention, fronds, stamens, sepals
architecture of a million alien worlds
enacted here as one. All sing and strain
as does the robin and her mate, ferrying
endless flies and moths into the ivy to feed
the cacophony of new mouths
Onto my page as I write insects drop
life is profligate, ardent, clamouring
effulgent, dare we say almost too much
driven urgently by need and love as am I
by questions such as what queer crop
are human minds required to raise
to serve the sky above.

6. June

Summer in Scotland
the melancholy comfort of rain
listen to the incessant kissing of rooftops
glistening, the sizzling swish of passing cars
let us don the dayglow cagoules of nostalgia
and traipse through muddy fields again
with those long dead who loved and raised us
bravely endured our tantrums and wails
and taught us patience on blighted holidays
the value of keeping going as they did
step by step, year by year, as we must now too
whatever the weather, the mistakes, the regret
knowing that for every sun there is a price to pay
in sweat and burn and consequences
for each unwitting sin:
the belated rain of forgiveness.

7. July

Scintillating brightness of light
white on the green leaves throwing
swaying shadows on walls as wordless mimes
for none but the early birds like me to see
who lick the quiet streets with sandaled feet
savouring the silence and coolness of dawn
the blue a pristine dome above, sacred
we move in pilgrimage as ants upon this earth
who understand Nature’s urgency
the sun’s brassy fanfare announcing
all the molten gold to come this day
a whole eternity to a butterfly also
a priceless chance to us each instant
if we can just grasp in our clumsy hands
what each tiny thing knows in the core
of its bones and sings of endlessly even
as it offers up its everything
to be burned in joyous sacrifice knowing
from death comes life from shadow light
from forgetting of regret, of risk of pain
of self-consciousness, our very selves:

8. August

Glasgow has been cut around
by a buzz-saw and towed south
and moored next to Barcelona
Suddenly we have café life
hot mornings where we might
actually seek out the cool of shadows
in which to sip a cappuccino
And we have our Dalis and Miros:
The maddies stripped to the waist
who suddenly emerge white-butterfly-like
after nine months gestation in drink
and drugs rehab and homeless hostels
toothless and disorientated, staggering
and staggered by the unexpected sunshine
wheeling and cawing like wizened crows
shouting what the fuck on street corners
they speak for all of us.

9. September

As if light itself can grow weary
burn out from over-use
too much laughter bring reflective tears
remembered childhood’s endless holidays
seep out as fading photographs
into cold new terms and sober uniforms
see now the subtle yellowing in the sky
the grandeur of summer’s glorious
oncoming death expressed in symphonies
of cirrostratus armies falling tier on flank
upon their swords of melancholy light
no season takes our breath like autumn
nor expresses better our human plight
who begin our slow cascades of cell decay
before even twenty years of youth
have held their sway, so now we see
our misting breath and frost encroach
as warnings of fragility, senility
here is the beauty so well expressed
across the canvas of the very sky
that what we feel in life
is too precious and ingenious
for any God to let it die, have faith
that all that we must lose, have lost
love and friendship, the hopeless cost
is colour, texture of the leaves that fall
to feed new life wherein
there is no death at all.

10. October

Under the emergent stars
the long drive over Clisham
the sea lochs still as my heart
in blue dusk the winking lights
of hamlets scattered as jewels
who make the night not lonely
but resplendent in this peppered land
where each human life is savoured
to serve an unutterable God
the hymns the music of my Gaelic
companions’ voices. My communion
the tears in your eyes mo chara daor
as I finish reading to the room.
And on the moors we passed
the Yes-signs and Saltires
sang out, a land blossoming
with hope, even as the leaves fell
from the trees around the castle
the watchmen blind to root and vein
our secret spring.

(-Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, 17.09.14)

11. November

Return, return the endless
car wash where the brushes turn
lashes rain upon this screen
whips wind through portals of my brain
autumn winter wipe me clean
as grey clouds queue to shed their load
I turn my head from midst the ritual
punctuations of this humdrum life
to catch high up some glimpse of blue
where wisps of cloud run wild
in antique light of burnished gold
my heart leaps at what memory retains
of our brief dreams of sweet escape
our reckless flight through streets
rendered bright with coloured hopes
as carnival flags defy the grey
a thousand times I wash this soul
my wringing hands to mime dismay
but cannot shift the stain
of you on me, of me on you.

12. December

On encircling hills the army first amasses
snowflake-cold, hard-hearted dressed in white
spyglass ice twinkling the city in their sights
poised to descend with north winds
shrieking orders putting citizens to flight
shutting down their roads, barricading
them in under hats and coats.

A winter dusk’s beauty in the city
the window-squares light up:
blue curtain twilight falls
teasing glimpses of a million lives
If God exists how could he bear it?
-Each soul a portal through which
an endless rope of memory runs
promising escape to sky and hope
but into which stardust falls and buries
under blankets of forgetfulness
squandered gifts of priceless souls.

To know even one or two of such
individuals intimately: instantly is
to fall in love and start to die
from the agony of knowledge of it
the impossibility of reaching out
and saving beauty, sadness
for the constellations of eternity
enough to do me in. Come, Winter
chill these veins, slow this heart
which having drunk its full
too much now wearies, says:
Freeze me so that I may wake
as someone else in time or vanish
under your obliterating trudge.


This entry was posted in Art, Photography, Poetry, Psychology. Bookmark the permalink.

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