Shuffling the pack, getting the psychic ducks in a row,
The odd realignment of the deck chairs.
On Fridays I set about putting my mind in order,
Look out across the windows
And the working week becomes the view.
Not a meadow with its tiresome buttercup meliorations
And knotted green integument.
Something more haphazard – the kind of city
Spread below my perch among the books,
That mess of old red sandstone and slate,
Poured concrete and crabby winter trees
Shirricked into passable streets
And plausible stabs at avenues.
Old fears and anxiousness, the crowd,
The crowing insanities of the office jargon jockeys,
Settle into a rough semi-order
Of staggered tenemented lines and unkiltered crescents.
Not quite resolved, but tractable ground for a mind map
Or the afternoon rambles of a psycho-geographer.
Such a city state of mind is wordscape too, let me warn,
A mediocre poem in which the week attempts
To walk its ways through the settlements of the tongue,
To map shanty towns and rank prosaic conurbations,
Shape passages to lead us back to our civic selves.
So now, and once again now,
My feet feel a way
Down the clanking mental fire escape
To the street, start to stumble,
Try and fail to beat some sense into my week, this place.
Paisley Weavers (At Sma’ Shot Cottage, Paisley)
How did it feel to animate
These awkward wooden frames,
To sit on a winter’s afternoon
With a dreich sky skeined low
Over Shuttle Street, Paisley,
And shuffle frosted clouds of breath
Between the warp and weft of the
Coarse cloth spread across this loom?
To work a passage from this room
To the New St. Kirk-yard over the way,
A criss-crossed million threads
The patterned shrouding of your days;
Time the ruthless click clack
Of the patient treadle going forward and back.
Surely to God they must have fucked about
And let things rip, you think,
The tenants of this emptied space;
Shaken loose from time to time
Their measured, manufactured lives
In misrule and unravelling,
Have drunk themselves maroculous
And flashed a swatch of hairy arse
At Baillie, laird, and councillor;
Just once or twice have lived a little,
Like a bit snapped off from Breughel
Or like Roberts Fergusson and Burns.
For weren’t the weavers radicals
And firebrands? A folk,
When time and chance gave leave,
Who waxed in millenarian hope
Of that paradisal life on earth,
A home-spun Utopia on the River Cart?
So why, then, does this room,
With its skeletal loom
And its hard wood recessed beds
And heavy artless furniture
Feel so blankly sabbatarian?
So uselessly utilitarian?
What hint here of Paisley Pattern's
Oriental brilliance and lustrousness,
The eyes fired with the luxuries of other worlds?
These cold plaster walls won't help:
For all they have attended and stood witness to
They give back nothing,
Offer for investment
Of time or interest
Unrelieved by ornament, resonantly empty,
They are spotless and joyless and tight-lipped;
Are immaculately, impeccably Presbyterian.