A Calendar of Hares

for Valerie Gillies

1. At the raw end of winter
the mountain is half snow, half
dun grass. Only when snow
moves does it become a hare.

2. If you can catch a hare
and look into its eye,
you will see the whole world.

3. That day in March
watching two hares boxing
at the field’s edge, she felt
the child quicken.

4. It is certain Midas never saw a hare
or he would not have lusted after gold.

5. When the buzzard wheels
like a slow kite overhead
the hare pays out the string.

6. The man who tells you
he has thought of everything
has forgotten the hare.

7. The hare’s form, warm yet empty.
Stumbling upon it, he felt his heart
lurch and race beneath his ribs.

8. Beset by fears, she became
the hare who hears
the mowers’ voices growing louder.

9. Light as the moon’s path over the sea,
the run of the hare over the land.

10. The birchwood a dapple
of fallen gold: a carved hare
lies in a Pictish hoard.

11. Waking to the cry of a hare
she ran and found the child sleeping.

12. November stiffens
into December: hare and grass
have grown a thick coat of frost.

A Secret History of Rhubarb (Glasgow: Mariscat, 2004)

A Calendar of Hares was featured on the Scottish Poetry Library website in 2005.


for Swithun

Your face shines, grave
and charming as a small moon.
I hear you holding your breath
while finger and thumb encompass
each neat striped seed,
setting it clean in its peat-pot
damp with earth, each hole
dibbed by your finger as deep
as one pink nail until,
with crumbs of earth nudged
over each one, we breathe out,
our relief sounding strangely
loud, like a wave breaking.

As pairs of leaves begin thrusting
clear of the earth, we run
with gifts of water; they thrive,
wheeling sunwards on green
wings; the sun draws them
to itself, as the moon the sea,
and the great heads curl and flame.
At night they hang fire, sinking
with the sun, and know nothing
of the moon’s rising; as the tide
turns in the bay, rocks
push through the sea. Sun
stirs the slow coronas.

Grown almost twice your height
they are galleons breasting the upper air,
and you, like a small cartographer,
busy with charts and rule,
plot their upsurge upon a graph.
In my dream you stand among masts,
your face to the moon in the shrouds,
while towards you black rocks are edging
and crawling, and I, helpless
upon a headland, signalling, signalling . . .
The garden lies gale-wrecked,
and we thresh among broken masts
and wet flower-heads for salvage.

Skating out of the House (1997)