Val Thornton (Creative Writing: University of Glasgow)

Above Daldowie, 1990

Gran is a bird.

Ten years it took
for the dragging flesh to dissolve
and the bones to grow thin and light.

Her hands curled to slow claws
below translucent skin.

The gold ring on her finger
slipped away
and was replaced with plastic
round her wrist
in case she flew too soon.

Far beyond words and Maltesers
she shed her teeth
leaving a small dark hole
below a sharpening beak.

At the end
her wings were hidden
small but folded
below the sheet.

Only the regular lifting
of her shoulder
showed preparations were complete.

And now, she's spread her wings
and flown away
free as a wraith of white smoke
free as a bird.


The wood cutter looks the part
in jerkin and knee-high boots
but his feathered cap
is perspex goggles
the sinuous axe a chainsaw.

He tramps no singing forest
in search of firewood.
In this sunny clearing
he's penned in, hemmed in
by folk with weans agape

as from a chunk of trunk
he spills a racket
to drown all birdsong
and from puffs of sawdust
conjures a creature.

It is wooden, mute,
an ugly duckling
head bowed on a stumpy neck.
Wood chips fly from clipped wings
raised to the mocking breeze.

High and dry, ringed
with the tree's rippling years
it would float, no doubt,
but upside-down.
Or, like a phoenix, burn.


When I lie on the rug
the cat settles
in the small of my back
and we are a camel.

When I sit on the chair
in my big woolly jumper
the cat burrows under
and we're seven months gone.

When I stand by the window
longing to fly
my wings are rolled up
purring, across my shoulders.

When I'm trying to sleep
on a cold winter's night
I am near stifled
by a rumbling fur hat.

When I'm cooking our fish
and she tries to be slippers
I am a stumbling monster
she, a mouse under the dresser.

eSharp issue: autumn 2003. © Val Thornton 2003. All rights reserved. 'Above Daldowie' and 'Familiar' are both from Catacoustics by Valerie Thornton, Mariscat Press, 2000. 'Swansong' is previously unpublished. ISSN 1742-4542.