Alec Finlay’s Question your teaspoons

Alec at Langais in North Uist

 
 
Alec Finlay is a poet and artist whose work crosses over a range of media and forms, from poetry to sculpture, audio-visual and neon, adopting such innovative poetic forms as the mesostic and circle-poem. Born in Scotland in 1966 and currently based in Newcastle, much of Finlay’s work reflects on our interaction with nature and considers how we as a culture, or cultures, relate to landscape. Recent projects include The Road North (2010-11), a contemporary ‘word map’ of Scotland composed in collaboration with Ken Cockburn over a year-long journey. Recent publications include Mesostic Remedy (morning star, 2009), Mesostic Interleaved (University of Edinburgh Press, 2009), Ian Hamilton Finlay: Selections (University of California Press, 2012), and Be My Reader (Shearsman, 2012). In 2010 Finlay was shortlisted for the Northern Art Prize. Question your teaspoons is published by Calder Wood Press.
 
  

  
  
  
 
     Lochan Eck
 
 
I miss the skimming
swallows
over the dark lochan
 
the waters where I swam
eye-to-eye
with the blue dragonfly
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
     the Sea Eck
 
 
her little mast and sails
are broken and forlorn
 
pond mud smears and splashes
the hull that gleamed and shone
 
while duckweeds stoop the gunnels
rudderless her windblown helm
 
wheels in the merest breezes,
but, glory faded, she floats on
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
     sailing the little boats
 
 
Ailie and I are let
     pick one sailboat each
          hold it carefully
 
by its weighty keel
     of lead, careful
          mind the rigging
 
at the lochan’s shore
     we slip them lightly
         and, if the wind is right,
 
watch together
     as my zulu and her fifie
          bob and tack
 
their angles across.
     My job always
          to race round the path
 
fetch them both
     when their sprits
          caught in the rushes.
 
Sailing the little boats
     never lasted long
          and nothing
 
really happened
     but for our sharing
          their floating.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
     northern elevation
  
  

Sue’s trug was always
near to hand
with green twine
trowel and secateurs
for this northerly elevation
 
ripens nothing
unless determined
the tiny pears
and russet apples
wooden and sour
 
the wrinkled golden
quince and neat green
and purple gooseberries
like blood blisters
to pick by the punnet
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
     broken dishes
 
 
That was the week that Dad got his diagnosis
and the flowers broke that are now in shards,
 
the week we heard the cancer was terminal
and the flowers broke that are now in shards.
 
That was the week the dog went fighting
and the flowers broke that are now in shards,
 
the week his cheek swole up like a fur balloon
and the flowers broke that are now in shards.
 
That was the week that I got the chills
and the flowers broke that are now in shards,
 
the week the virus became a winter fever
and the flowers broke that are now in shards.
 
That was the week the bloody dog bit me
and the flowers broke that are now in shards,
 
the week we each had our bottles of antibiotics
and the flowers broke that are now in shards.
 
That was the week the lid of the teapot fell
and the flowers broke that are now in shards,
 
the week the pieces scattered all over the floor
and the flowers broke that are now in shards.
 
That was the week I decided to stay in bed
and the flowers broke that are now in shards,
 
the week there was nothing but Bach on the radio
and the flowers broke that are now in shards,
 
with the dog curled beside me like pastry
and our flowers all broken now in shards.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
     inheritance
 
 
this is just to say
that I have taken
 
the little boats
you made
 
with keels of lead
and hanky sails,
 
the fine woollen socks
your muses gave you,
 
a dusty mouth organ,
and some books
 
Creeley, Le Corbusier,
The Zen Gardens of Japan
 
the rest of what’s left
is the world’s to keep
 
 
 
 
from Question your teaspoons (Calder Wood Press, 2012).
 
Order Question your teaspoons.
 
Visit The Road North.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Notes
 
 
The title is taken from a motto composed by Georges Perec.
 
Cover Stonypath c. 1970, photograph by Bob Anderson,
courtesty of the artist.
 
Cover photo: note that the basket contains toy sailboats,
not fishes.
 
The punnets of fruit referred to in northern elevation were sold to Paul the Grocer, whose van visited once a week; all income went towards the purchase of SPI wargames.
 
 
 
*

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