Where’s the Smoke?

Today Bernadette Mayer, speaking through the Salt-Pig, told me to: write a poem that reflects another poem, as in a mirror. Turns out this is not an easy thing to do in an hour, so I flipped through a notebook, sure I’d attempted this exercise before and found I had with Norman MacCaig’s:

That Journey

To make a mark
from the mountain horizon to the sea:
a straight line.

It goes through lochs and fields
and fistfuls of villages.
It goes in the dark and the light.

In the harbour a boat
sets its white sail.
Its anchor crawls aboard.

Those who are left behind
will look out to sea,
their eyes bright with hope –
not knowing when it returns
they’ll see approaching
a black sail on bright water.


My main aim when writing this was to ride in MacCaig’s cadence:

This Stasis

To make a bed
from the mountain of options thrown at me:
a place to lie.

I discount frills and buttons,
‘antiqued’ lace,
I need dark in this light.

In the Town Hall
a man sweeps the floor
for a ceilidh.
It shines like a glass eye.

Only the self-selected are invited,
in their sweatshop sequinned
gowns and clan-hankering
kilts they will try to dance
history into existence, imagining
themselves cream.

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