Let’s imagine a hill tall enough to see everything from and we’ll sit on a bench, red if you want it, look out at parks just so full of people that it will make you smile without meaning to. And we’ll watch streets thronged, yes! thronged will be the proper word. And shops will have doors wide open to allow all the people, also smiling, out and in. And there will be people eating their favourite foods in restaurants, sat side by side, cheek by jowl (imagine!) and no one will mind the crush. And the music will be playing everywhere and the dancing – oh! the dancing will be infectious and we’ll tap our feet up on our red bench on tall hill. We’ll be so happy, everyone will be so happy. When this is all over.
Reynard, not dog nor wolf, slides through other worlds in-out-in-between, never other
than what he is, nothing less could do as he is, being that which is alone in dark-light.
His musk scent-nose is touch. Sight is as you can’t feel-see-be, have or can. And as he is, he lives.
The Island Dogs
Watch out for us! Lone canine or running pack we get what we want. Our hunts will be long, stealth comes easy to island bred hounds, you won’t ever see us come, us island dogs and bitches. Oh, puzzle over our guttural growls. Never know how much we tell with each draawn out vowel and nipping consonant. Marvel at how we homespun things, spartan, uncomplicated creatures, seem to get what it is you are thinking. We do, oh we do. We think you have no clue. We’ve already encircled you, our teeth bared, ready to spring.
*Author note: it’s hard to believe it now, but when I first swopped the Shetland Islands for the west coast of Scotland I encountered quite extreme prejudice, including being called an ‘Island Dog’. I was even physically attacked in a pub toilet and told to ‘Go back home’.
Dear Mr HJW Gilman
(After Mrs Mounter at the Breakfast Table)
I have been handed the task
of turning my response to your painting
Mrs Mounter at the Breakfast Table
And, you see, this is not easy.
I have always been one to interact with the thing
not the story, and while this seems to be
like looking at the glass instead of out the window,
it is the gift I was given and I employ it as best I can.
So first I want to ask you -
how does this make you feel?
Pleased, I would suspect. After all, artists crave
validation via an audience - an addictive feedback loop,
as any whacked-out junkie will tell you, right before
they lift your wallet for the next hit.
Next, I fear I must say your clever technique
of 'sound and solid pigment' reeks of Photoshop
Superpunch, something you won't understand.
Yet it inserts itself between myself and the painting
And that I viewed it online (again, you won't
understand) thus rendering mute much of your work.
You should be horrified. The strokes, the size,
the light that strikes just right - ting! These are all
important parts of the thing I was denied.
How do you feel?
And Mr HJW Gilman, I think I must
let you know, I don't care much about Mrs Mounter.
But then, neither did you. She's a tool,
a bridge, a springboard that you used
to move your vision into ours.
(Do you like all those image-heavy words?
It's how we poets do what you do with paint)
Just like I am using you.
As for my response
to Mrs Mounter at the Breakfast Table,
it makes me.... sad?
A drystone dyke holds the garden taut
lest the winds blow it out to sea. Little grows
easy here – daffodils, lupins, roses.
Things that do are worked over and over
into flowerbeds, rock gardens, tyre planters
painted white. A crub is kept for kale.
Weeds are removed to bare brown earth,
treasured in this land of bogs, ditches, peat.
And sand, for always the sea threatens.
It is a simple colour palette, bound
to a patch of order. All gardens here
are a variation on this, with no wonder
for lifetimes rived hand-over-fist from nature
that fights back leaves its mark. Each garden
says here I am, I’m still here. By the door
a sheepdog is cürious and
in ditches and bogs
weeds grow and
o halliget colour
Dyke – wall
Crub – circular drystone enclosure for growing cabbages (kale)
Rived – torn
Cürious – anxious (not as in English curious)
Onkerry – a disturbance, a riot (lit: a carry on)
Halliget – wild, unrestrained
This voice is between the shore
and the ebb, though the body that houses it
paces streets hedged by trees and parked cars,
and the lips that cast it forth pay their dues
to polite society.
Sjusamillabakka, where liquid words shoal,
swell, crest edges; ending, beginning,
This voice sounds like any other
round about here, unless some
residual ripples carry through.
Perhaps you can't hear it.
Or feel the storm surge
as the mother wave
builds up behind
Sjusamillabakka – between the shore and the ebb
(Shetland Tabu, language of fishermen)
Mother wave – wave that seeks land, bringing fishermen safely home.
(Known as the Moder-dy in Shetland)Maxine Rose Munro is a Shetlander adrift on the outskirts of Glasgow. After spending the first eighteen years of her life exclusively on the islands, without even a small break for the holidays, the culture shock experienced on eventually seeing the wider world rocked her to the core, and is still rocking now. However, as the end result appears to be poetry, she’s fairly ok with this. Her poetry has been widely published both in print and online, exhibited at Stanza Poetry Festival, shortlisted for the SMHAFF Awards, and nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She runs First Steps in Poetry feedback programme, which offers beginner poets free feedback and support. www.maxinerosemunro.comWolfpack Contributor Bio: Maxine Rose Munro
This, my most honest of poems
I wish I was like you, not
as simile but as metaphor
– as an 'I am' type thing.
Not because of your tall
which juts above my short
when I am juxtaposed with you.
I will not compare and contrast
our hair, noses, mouths, your hands
that enclose mine.
I'm satisfied with my physical body:
all that's lumpy, scraggy, wobbly,
and, yes, even my strange, way too-long toes.
But I envy you your emotions,
the way your head and heart hear
what each has to say.
Never does one drown out the other,
or sulk in silence. You always say
only what you mean.
And you mean everything
with the words you use.
You are perfectly composed.
Like I made this poem to be,
like I myself want to be
but never am.
I watch them skim, lizards
almost the colour of my mother's panstik,
twitch-jerk among crumbled dirt
also shaded lizard. The lizards look
and move unlike anything I've seen. Fast,
faster than the eye can measure,
but still it seems in my grasp
to speak with them, as if we could
commune as one,
shared ancestry loosening our tongues,
letting us laugh together, swop tales
of differing views of a same world.
Later, my toddler daughter will stumble
into a shelf of milk, a bottle will fall,
tumble to shop floor spilling out everything,
and I will be unable
to make myself understood
to the French shopkeeper.
On a hillside,
bed-time approaching, a child sits
in a garden deep inside of memory,
loans me her ears. I hear
sea waves that come
a bumble bee I know is tied to there
and then, but its toilsome droning
could be any other bee
just to listen to it,
and echoes, there are echoes
for every sound
just behind it/slightly
boys in dinghies ahoy to each other
hear themselves answer
before they're prepared
a heart beats twice breath goes in
a gull's cry sounds so close just over there
there, it stretches back out to its own echo,
nothing ever ends,
the tide turns again, echoes
are calling me home.
Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Maxine Rose Munro2 poems by Maxine Rose Munro in Fevers of the Mind Poets of 2020
Maxine Rose Munro is a Shetlander adrift on the outskirts of Glasgow. She writes in both English and her native Shetlandic Scots, and is widely published in the UK and beyond, both in print and online, including in Acumen; Ink, Sweat and Tears; and Southlight. Find her here http://www.maxinerosemunro.com