New Year By Blair Center
The breeze blows light like glitter over grass
as the air parts blades for its path to pave.
Individually amongst the mass,
each shining strand of green appears to wave.
Wool clumps hang on barbed wire like ellipses
placed upon the lines of wide writing sheets.
Back there, I see the authors by the trees,
a meeting of them, conversing in bleats.
The birches shake, crying, and the oaks whinge
and wobble as the winds screech by each top.
The woods all move, squeaking like a great hinge;
the threatening roar threatens trees to drop.
Hinges in motion, a door opens wide
and I pass through its frame to a new side.
Windblow by Nicola Furrie
Not for the first time, I slept downstairs
taking comfort from stone cold walls.
Storm Malik took hold,
rampaging like a drunk,
tearing up trunks that once I’d hugged
with arms too slight for your girth.
Praying each buffet and blast
might be the last.
Out snuff the lights. The hoary roar – no
humdrum power. After the rain,
a tender dawn yawns
cavities and root plates.
Tendrils wave distress. The moorings
of the gean tree that held the
hammock that cradled us, were
My Scots pine still stood, Swanley’s vestige
of the Taiga biome. Now rent
joints and scattered limbs –
green needles reach for the sunlight.
`Plenty logs’, say wind blowhards.
The resinous air heavy
with cycles new.
Across the hills, plumes rise as heather
burns – a new crop elected to
fill furrows’ fudge clods.
Snowdrops shelter from the
sea. A man treads though the stumps with
a sack of saplings, sowing
back our fine forests. Just not
in my lifetime.
Loss by Fin Hall
One line to take away the grief and pain
One line just to get me through the day
One line to help me forget
One line to hide my loss had regrets.
See You Soon By Andrew Collins
Awoken before the alarm’s bell,
Wakefulness for the others hadn’t fell.
Dressed and slipped into a day anew
To bid my fears and cares adieu.
Spring, half-term dawning,
Fog sank into the valley that morning
And flowed downstream with silken grace.
The earth is not a cold dead place.
In your heart nothing blooms
Still, the snowdrops made it swoon.
Heavy, dew-kissed heads
Kindly saluted from their beds.
Descended gladly into the murk,
Glistens the silver on the birk.
Made for the slate-like, sluggish vein
Nothing would ever feel like this again.
Found a bridge over the lapping waters,
A crossing for some distant cottar.
Parapets crumbling, grass underfoot,
Long forgotten the labourer’s boot.
Followed a game trail, some desire path
Leading upstream the beckoning strath.
Observed by eyes of creatures unseen
Long since anywhere man has been.
The forest spilled upwards into the gloom,
Silence reigned as that of a tomb,
But for the babble of a fish-scaled river,
Some benevolent, goodly life-giver.
The route narrows betwixt the shallows and trees
A scene painted grey, slowly to ease.
Found a stream, of some lofty source,
Turned upwards to follow its course.
Welcome burn slaked the thirst of nature,
With rapids and cascades in miniature.
Following up the cool, shadowy dell,
Amongst the woods lay its hidden well.
Pausing I turned to find the fog had shifted
And below a scene serene was gifted,
For the glen was bathed in gilded light
And a breeze blew through cordially and slight.
What quirk paints the scene forever in recollection
And marked it out for such affection?
Was it the heavenly mare’s tails which so beguiled?
Or a glimpse of peace from which you were so exiled?
A Kirk spire across the way
Sat amongst a sun-dappled brae;
Man’s only intrusion on the scene,
A brawer sicht there’d never been.
Father by Michael Arthur
I had a vivid dream
That you were dead
I take to this conversation no morbidity
It’s encompassing reality was as comprehensive
as it was terrifying
On waking I called to you
You weren’t yourself
Complaining of stomach pains
Perhaps the onset of Covid 19
I worried towards your octogenarian lilt
And I was confronted by the now stunning reality
That loss would eventually come my way no
Not now hopefully but the future was as ever
the dream was preparing me
For the release that we all try to hide from
That which we all know but never confront
Whispering to me softly like a playful child
That all that passes is like a sweet all
Is the song of rebirth and decay
Hope by Fin Hall
Today, no more lines in my view
I’m learning to live each day without you
The future, if not bright,
Has hints of shine and light.
Retour by Alistair Lawrie
Aa winter I’d fess cosy claes
fae the stowed oot lobby press
crampit doon aneth oor stairs,
maist times withoot a thocht
fit wis hidin there; but
files a clinkin minded me
foo queer it wis that there
aneth the row o impty coats
ahint i boxies, faan doon scarfs
an gloves aa broodin in i stoor
an smoorin dunk er peekit out
my mither’s gift tae spring –
her row o queer alembics,
ilk een primit wi yon dark
flooer bulbs, aa ackwart in among
galashes an aal bags, giein
a surprisin air o the lang kent
tae the unkentlike, unexpeckit
shapes ilk time you fessed
your coatie an half took tent
fit glamour you half kent they meant,
til fan, aa dirlt, you saw a lowe
ayont the open door far opent
petals bleezed awa the dark.
Regrowth by Blair Center
Half of your old trunk has been packed away
and, now, a stump, uprooted, you are left
patronisingly patted down to stay.
For now, of former heights you are bereft.
I see the glistening stain of sap wept,
solid amber upon the bare, worn wood.
I count the rings you share, round records kept
of growth and weather here before I stood.
Your broken, brittle shape now shows the storm
in bitter, sharp splinters and shattered bark.
Yet, some day, with patience, you shall transform.
Returned, blooming branches shall sprout to mark
and herald the day when you rise again
to host flowers, fruit and the singing wren.
Photography by Innes Gregory – @innesgregory
The connection for my submission evolves around reimaging, repurposing and refreshing art at the Sunnybank park graffiti wall.
The chair has been repurposed as a recycling bin for empty graffiti cans.
Royan, pictured, showed up unexpectedly when I was setting up this shoot. He offered to help by throwing the graffiti can into the bin, and I feel the added human element makes the image stronger.
Pure Baltic by Birgit Itse
My feet are cold. Very cold.
It’s not like I’m outside. No. I’m in my bedroom.
My feet look purple-ish.
“Colder than a freezer,” compares my son.
I’m ready to go to bed, and I put my Grandma’s hand-knitted socks on. Right now, they’re still on my radiator. Red and white. The last ones she knitted in her long life. I got them for my birthday and four days later, she became a rainbow. It was 12 years ago.
I wear these socks only when I’m in bed. No walking. They are too valuable for this.
“Why are you wearing these socks?” my son asks.
“Because these are red, and red is a warm colour. So it’s warming colour.”
“What is blue?”
“Blue is a cold colour.”
“So it’s cooling.”
“So that’s why your skin is blue when you’re cold, and when you’re hot, it’s red?”
“I’ve never thought of it, but there’s some truth in it.”
“The socks are warm now,” he says, and we exchange socks to the tea mug.
“Thanks,” I reply as I curl under the blanket.
He stays for a bit, just to cuddle.
“Good night, Mum”
“See you in the morning.”
“See you in the morning.”
It’s really difficult to fall asleep with freezing feet. Often, the coldness travels to the other parts of my body.
It’s the chilly season again. So, I’m kind of used to it. As much as you can get used to being cold.
I still go out. I like fresh air. Especially frosty mornings. Even the snow is nice. For a bit.
Not a fan of shovelling it for 6 months in a year. Or even four. Like it used to be back in Estonia.
Then again, I look at the pictures of the ice plates in the sea, the cold candles on the fields raising to the sky. I see the images where the flakes are dancing in the golden sun shining through the clouds, or ice skating videos on the frozen lakes of the Estonian bogs, and something inside me gives me a nudge. Don’t you miss this?
A little bit. I remember trees covered by thick snow caps, low midday sun peaking through the sparkly branches, and I can hear snow crystals squeaking under my feet.
There’s something calming about the smoke from the chimneys, lazily raising towards the sky.
And when the sun has set, I can see how the air I breathe is forming shiny ice crystals in front of my face. I’m breathing diamonds, I think, and smile.
Very fairy-like idea. Scotland is a land of fairies, fairy-tales and unique unicorns. I like the idea that I fit in to this story.
Pure Baltic, I hear locals describe wildish wintry days. I always tend to giggle inside then. In the Baltic countries, of which Estonia is the northernmost, a couple of minus degrees is called a mild winter.
Minus 20 is not very rare. Every winter, there are a couple of nights, and mornings when the temperature is below 30 minus degrees.
Minus 35 is rare, but happens almost yearly.
I know that these temperatures are not comparable because of the level of the humidity.
Still, I find the expression pure Baltic amusing.
Northern Scotland and Southern Estonia are in about the same latitude. And except a bit of Sweden, there’s nothing but two seas between them – The North Sea, and the Baltic Sea.
Heavy snowfalls, sleet, and ice rains that cover your car within minutes with a thick ice, also streets and roads. Thick, deep snow covering the fields, blizzards covering your road to home within less than 30 minutes, snow falling from the roofs covering the windows – I’ve seen it all. I’ve survived it all. And I’m grateful that I don’t have to experience it. And if I do want some snow and skiing – the Cairngorms are close enough.
Although, I joked that Scotland is not the place to move for a weather, for me, it was a bit. I couldn’t handle the weekly minus 25’s. I felt like there’s nowhere I can feel warm. Like the blood inside me froze.
The cold that went through every layer of clothing and returned quickly after I left the steam room of a hot sauna.
My son loves snow. And he’s rarely cold.
Already when he was little, we had our joke how I was the canary bird, and he’s the penguin.
Sometimes, we still use it.
Doing a bit of research for this story, I found out that Scots have 400 expressions to describe the snow. That was surprising. As I’ve understood, snowy winters are more common in the Highlands, and not so much in the coastal areas or in the Lowlands.
Last winter, the snow visited Aberdeen twice. It first came on a Christmas Eve, stayed for the time of holidays and then again closer to the spring for more than ten days. I even built some snowmen for the little girl next door. It was impossible to do our laundry for days because the pipes froze, and the laundry is done in the garage.
As much as I like everything being green all the time, seeing roses and gorse blooming even in November, December, and January. As much as I get excited seeing daffodils showing their leaves in February, I enjoy that swirling, twirling dance of snowfall, the feeling of flakes melting on my face. I enjoy going to the nearest forest, and shaking the branches, so the snow falls on me. If I had an opportunity, I’d surprise someone else like that, too. Just to see their reaction.
Luckily, my son is as playful as I am, so during these walks, we have loads of fun.
Unleashing my inner pure Baltic.
And after that, it’s time for a hot chocolate, and freshly made apple pie, my Mums recipe. And a good book. So I fold the felted tartan plaid around my feet, wriggle my toes in the hand-knitted socks, this time, these are from my Mum, admire marshmallow pink puffs in a darkening blue sky, smile, and open the page. I can totally survive this.
Watercolour, marker and digital painting with poem by Airhead – @airheadart
And with every passing moment,
the skin on my hands and face
sheds as dust.
have laid a finger on me.
Many, Many Miles by Hannah Nicholson
Already when I wake
After a bumpy night on the ferry,
I’m over 200 miles away
From the home I know,
All those cold miles
Of the North Sea
Falling away behind me
As I barely slept.
Emerging from the gangway
Into a dusky Aberdeen morning,
I collect my many cases
With most of my life
Folded away inside.
I am eighteen and terrified,
Green and utterly puzzled
At this new, huge adventure.
I make my way to the railway station
Acutely aware of my solitude,
Especially as I wait on my train.
Once I board my service
I get as comfortable as I can,
And I watch as it pulls away
From the platform, the familiarity
Increasingly leaving me.
In two and a half hours,
I should arrive in a city
That I have known only as a visitor,
But this time as a resident
For this essential next chapter.
I eventually start to gaze
Out of the window,
Watching as the landscape
Falls away with the miles,
The newness of it mesmerising
And almost reassuring.
I will enjoy this journey
As a comfort to myself
Before the green hills and trees
Are replaced with concrete
And brickwork, the sea
Replaced by a river, my old life
Further away from me
Than ever before.
Regeneration by Nick Bagshaw
Two single beds
pushed together slightly
anaemic wallpaper actually
began life a valium
blue mustard curtains
apparently by choice
a sheet, heavily pilled,
overstretched, like you,
probably was quite nice once.
played with no real care,
confessions like nothings
bodies swear adjacent
grace slaps faces screwed
too tight to even come
shags in six flats unresolved
lashings splat dry
bombast gags regrets
slept off alarms knell
dreams at least spent
pretending at sober rest.
Goodbyes mark the end.
Da capo a piacere.
Forms grow comatose as
through musical bones.
Love’s attempts grow
each form delivers
like frost coated snow.
Now roots take hold.
Photography by Rory Barclay
Neowise by Michael Arthur
All those dreadnoughts
that sanctioned my fractured mind
Now hedgerows where birds sing
So watch for me
For now I turn
Mine will be a litany
Brought troubles striped like bark
From a white willow bow
Flayed and strew about
Are now clean windows
Where the sun shines in
To illuminate the day
I watch as the dewey breath
Gives me a clear vision
Of its smokey draught
As I inhale and exhale
The past and future
Once more entwined in a comets
Leaving the sun
To journey it’s way into
So tomorrow I look to!
Will you be with me
My long and trusted
REQUIEM FOR A MEMORY by Fin Hall
I was ambushed by an enemy I didn’t know
But tomorrow is soon enough to say goodbye
As the fireflies dance around the moon
Your leaving came far too soon
Going back to where we first met
As you turned into flowers
And floated off into the sky.
Like Icarus, returning, flaming to Earth
Down into the land of ice and snow
Every journey starts with a single move
I thanked you for the skates and dinner in your room
I acted on impulse, let go.
And I fell on my arse
You helped my up, and showed me my worth.
Cruel fate offers so few opportunities to connect
I opened the book with both hands
Turning the pages, one by one by one
Standing on ice tougher than stone
As each day passed,
My Bambi legs got stronger
My foibles and flaws, I learned to respect.
The drumbeats came, we danced until dawn
Then stood on the grey shore, close to the tide
Watching the future come in and recede
Feeling more secure than I ever believed
Part of something, for the first time
In it for the long haul
Remembering this now you are you are gone
Upturned Forest, Up-reaching Branches by Endija Lukstina
when I lay in bed in the middle of night as the storm was raging, I thought of you.
the shutter released in my mind with flashes again and again
as the wind made terrible fireworks, dragging its fingers through your pine needles,
uprooting your trees, but– softness around them now,
my feet sinking in moss as I step around the horizontal earth bodies,
the tops of the pines right next to my heart, my bellybutton,
big mounds of earth at their base, still, more graceful than a gender reveal.
still as jaw-dropping as when I had to look up to see where they end.
now I look down, or next to myself, and see
you are a delicate drama of natural light leaks, i am a shadowy analogue photograph
hiding in your fragrant darkroom, developing slowly – a tad too slowly perhaps.
i am a mess of wind and cloud and hair,
you are a mess of moss and spiders and roots,
so, we could come to some kind of Piranesian understanding, and
I just want you to be completely honest with me.
am I emptier now or, has part of me just been scattered by the wind
in soft and hard and labyrinthine places?
when I saw your half-naked pine tree I thought, this is the tapestry of my nearest days – one
side of it evergreen, one side of it too delicate to look at,
like lightning-bolt scars. the ghost of symmetry suggested something that was
growing, and also something that had been taken away.
i just want you to be completely honest with me.
are you emptier now or is part of you just growing in a different direction?
AMERICAN GODS by Fin Hall
Braggadocious swing rock playing,
You are dancing with the sun
The stench of a broken heart prevails,
There is sadness in the funeral home
the women are mourning.
For a once forgotten son.
You may think that it doesn’t have to,
but the world will keep on changing.
Even if you stay standing still.
You lost it all
Because you left it all
Don’t you remember?
Don’t you recall?
Fear is fiction.
If it’s real in your mind.
It’s real in the world.
You let Wednesday sneak out the front door
While, with death you were preoccupied
Sadness is a feeling,
That even a dazzle of zebras can get.
When a lion takes one of their young.
Separate hearts that once beat in time.
Now, one rides the elevator to afterlife,
Where they have to acknowledge truth before moving on.
The other sitting, sighing in a cinema
Watching movies made for one.
Retreating from reality,
Yellow lilies, worn white roses,
Stepping out of the screen,
Between ashes and demons
And the shadow moon.
Gone, sometimes forgotten.
But you remember where he has been.
King cotton, not your memory,
But your history, so long ago,
The past remains in the present,
Haunted by the hunters,
When we are all different birds flying in the same sky.
Dropping out, falling down,
Mourning the forgotten
Forgetting the morning when it all went wrong.
When the flight feathers were clipped
Because they wanted to stop you flying.
To stop you trying to be you.
Controlling you living.
In control of your death.
Pulling, sucking out,
Your very last breath.
Money lenders, avarice angel
Whispering, “Stop dancing, we know what you know.”
You looked away for a second,
Knowing his last breath was coming
And you missed that moment in time.
Then the music stopped, the sun went out
That’s when the beat went in the box.
And became that memory.
Bye baby bunting by Michael Arthur
If I’m reincarnated
Let me be brown with sinew
On a beach in figi
With my grom board hooked
Cockily under my arm
As I run into the pounding
Giggling and cavorting
With the sun wrenching
My excitement out of my limbs
With you beside me as
We chase and laugh at the
Dawn and the sunset
Breaking coconuts on rocks
And imbuing the sweet tangy
Juice to our cracked dry salty lips
We’ll catch waves and ride them
Tubes glistening and frothing with the flem of the deep.
Skirting the reef like exotic swallows
Skipping the sea and migrating
To distant coastlines
Like we did in this life
Till you parted ways from me
Shallow breathing your way out
Oblivious to the peacefully consequence of our
Eyes dead and staring nowhere
Your hand held in mine
As I witnessed your last conscious thought