BAKINGS

Bakings is The Bakehouse’s new online literary magazine – poems submitted by invitation alongside recordings of featured poets from previous Bakehouse events. Trawl through the site to find fine poetry from Scotland and beyond alongside film poems and illustrations. 

Fables for Our Time: Sheep-Dog : Ross Donlon

for Hugh McMillan

 

She tells me the girlhood story of the orphan lamb

she loved and raised on the bottle in their house

and I wonder if there’s a moral or metaphor in this.

The teenage girl growing maternal, her baby-like

pet’s eyes, the fleecy blanket’s sticky, milky touch,

I sense there could be a moral or metaphor in this.

The lamb docile in the house, sleeping with dogs,

content with the family, tv and a pack of kelpies

I think there might be a moral or metaphor in this.

Time grows, she grows, the lamb also grows but -

into a ram, still so dog-like they called him Dog.

So touching, I think there must be a moral or metaphor in this.

But wait. While lambs might live in houses, rams may not.

Rams like to ram - legs, doors, china cabinets, grandma.

I am perplexed. Can a moral or metaphor come from this?

First day interned in a paddock Dog eschews the ewes,

but breaks his back leg chasing a tabby cat up a gum tree

and I feel sure a moral if not a metaphor, must come from this.

First time for everything. The local vet makes a cast for the ram

hobbling pirate-like in a sheep paddock. So poignant, amusing

and sad, I ponder what moral or metaphor might come from this?

Cast off but still outcast, Dog greets the missus’ returning car

by ramming her door shut. Then the passenger door, boot and hood.

This unexpected development makes me query what moral or metaphor

could come from this.

Marooned in her purple Gemini, Mum yells and phones Pa, but his mobile is

switched to silent while Dog looks for more blameless panels to ram, and I

imagine Nietzsche, Jung and even Sigmund Freud quarrelling with Plato and

the School of Athens as to what moral or metaphor might be drawn from this.

Sunday dinner in the country is a time of calm.

Baked meat and vegetables fresh from the farm.

Talk subdued, apart from courtesies, ‘Pass the ram.’

 

Moral: I remain quietly confident there are morals and metaphors to be drawn from the tragic story of Dog the Sheep but at the time of writing, March 6, 2020 I have absolutely no idea what they might be.

Knife : a word of uncertain origin : Ross Donlon

 

…and origin is uncertain, perhaps, since we’ve been for so long with Knife.

How soon after we crawled did flint, shell, stick and need make knife?

Oldest tool. Oldest weapon. Hurting and helping. Which came first?

Food- shelter-death-maker in peace and war - the uncertain story of knife.

Before steel was stainless it was stained grey, colour of stone, cold sea, dead 

skin, sky at certain times. Colour and form depends on the life-time of knife.

Blade length varies with use, owner-gender, thickness and shape. Culture curves,

straightens. Ornate or utilitarian, it wears the wearer, heralds the bearer: My Knife.

Sharpening curves steel, faint waves indent, stop and start. Blades shape ways

of make and use. Skill, care and time are primal tools for the creation of knife.

Grandfather had his made in a railway workshop. His knife, like him, roughhewn.

Rivets on cold steel. Its handle not from bone, wood nor plastic. Mystery of his knife.

Never used. Never made to carve, cook or clean. It waited. Sheathed inside him

His kitchen throne room. His servants and lackeys. His joker. His hidden knife.

A voice can cut. Words can slash. Time deepens the spoken wound weeping.

Threats survive in dreams, even if luck rescues survivors from the knife.

I retrieved it rusting in the past. What did it mean to me now? So many had died

other deaths. Cleaned and sharpened, its memory glows grey. What is life to a knife?

                                                                                                            

Road Kill : Ross Donlon

 

Sunday morning on the Calder 

two bodies rise with the crest.

One, foreground left, unattended,

the kangaroo’s back is turned away

with what looks like embarrassment.

On the opposite verge, 

someone at the dead biker’s chest

makes the bloated belly bobble and hop.

Momentarily, it seems like disrespect

and we all slow          eyes right

to see legs and arms splayed

by the morning tide.

His mates wave like leather scarecrows

on a windless day, witnesses to a perfect time

for a ride into the almost unknown.

But their Harleys still spread like a threat -

diamond torque - arc of black - broken chain.

One bike still on its side, wheels stopped

in a turn of roulette, I shock myself

wondering why I feel as much or more for the roo

that had hopped through a copper morning

innocent as a penny, all grace and life intent,

to be marked with the rough cross of road kill

and grieve thinking how its day will end,

where be thrown as landfill.

 

Jack Russells : Celia Purcell

 

Two dogs are curled around their space,

sharing the same patchwork coat

and flicker of ear. They sleep, both

close to my father’s after dinner work

with a spade, his shadow over them.

Brothers making trouble mostly,

who know how to run and somersault

faster than their legs can carry,

who rummage noses far below ground –

get buried. Then shrill through yards

of soil, each barks like a Baskerville hound

to come up bleeding at the nose.

Now they lie quiet as if life began

here with this garden and will always be so,

small paws taut in anticipation

of my father’s spade hurling the earth.

 

Wildwood : Deborah Harvey

 

It’s time to leave this house

Glancing up as I cut the grass

I see three apples, green in leaves,

the first-ever crop on the tree I grew

from the seed of the final fruit

picked in my grandmother’s garden

I’ll watch them swell and ripen

take the pips with me when I go,

plant a tree that might not blossom

in the years that are left

There are millions of seeds in pots and jam jars,

spilling from mouths of paper bags

one for each minute of each day lost,

copses, forests, wildwood

falling through my fingers

I reach for the hands of my children, my sisters,

our dormant stories stir in earth

make for the light

 

Published in ‘Breadcrumbs’ (Indigo Dreams, 2016)

Oystercatchers : Deborah Harvey

 

One day

the day she’s been waiting for will come

and she’ll take these words with her to the sea

unzip her coat, pull open her ribcage

let them fly as purposely

as oystercatchers

pulling the strings of the sky

and tide

lifting the weight from each blood cell

giving her permission    

 

Published in ‘The Shadow Factory’ (Indigo Dreams, 2019)
Winner of the 2018 Plough Prize Short Poem Competition

  

 

Advice : Janice Dempsey

 

Stirring the porridge

I think of Miss Rymer’s grave.

She’s passed her century if she’s not in it.

I wish I’d written this,

she wrote on my homework.

 

Keep stirring, don’t stop,

my mother always warned.

Some advice, some praise

stays with you.

Keep stirring, or life goes lumpy,

sticks.

 

How Night Was Made : Annie Wright


(after a line from Tales of the Warao, Orinoco Delta, Amazon)

An enormous sneeze was brewing;

the Lord of the Night shook out

his sky blue handkerchief

Aschooalotl, splotl, aschootl!

 

and dabbed tear-streaked eyes.

When he opened them

to his surprise

dark had escaped

covering the world in blackness.

Coyote howled, jaguar hissed,

all the birds fell to Mother Earth

for protection.

His people huddled shivering,

afraid a mighty beast

had swallowed the sun for ever.

The Lord of the Night

hung his head and wept.

Tears froze on his cheeks

and he knew what he must do.

He flung crystal tears     into emptiness

Somewhere far distant

glittering splinters of light

hang in the heavens, tiny fires

by which to navigate the night.



Cause of Death : Debasish Lahiri

 

I died of death

And never knew it,

And grew to be young

And died of it,

And grew to be wise

And died,

A bit,

Of that too.

But I shall not be old

Nor ever die of it.

 

Today

When you took my hand

In winter

To tell me –

Through pore and vein,

Not words –

That summer exists always,

I felt under my shirt

For my heart

And damp clod clung to my fingers;

I was sad

And I was alive.

For once

I was certain

That I would not die of life.

Perhaps the full winter of death

Has come

With that secret saboteur summer,

That is ever in hiding

And never goes away.

I can die of summer.

But, this was supposed to be a poem of love,

That most secret cause of death.