She’s a voice, they say
but when did you hear a human voice
sing such grace
in baroque quintets and ragtime bands alike?
lilt through the ornaments
and lament with so much reason?
like a low star
then slide on up and scatter notes
far and wide, a firework
under the blackwood skies of the Jazz Age?
This is the world as sung to you by a long-
compassionate after all she’s seen but
Her saddest song
has a whisper deep inside
of translunary laughter:
the sorrows of all the people of all the world
shadow the phrases
she makes dance.
And with such sweet tears
– you realise
when it’s too late – she sings
that same old song again
for you, distingué lovers
so newly met in the garden
That small deceptive bend
in what seems like a fast straight, where the boy-
racers would come to grief – remember?
Now the scars on the big sycamore tree
have all grown over
and the last of the silk flowers tied to it
are tattered, grey, that were kept
renewed through all these years.
I saw her once: a red-haired woman
middle-aged, in a pink top
wading into the ditch, her armful of artificial sunflowers
held high above the nettles
and her car parked in the bend
where everything northbound had to swerve around it
into the hidden traffic
coming the other way.
Like she could care
her heart dead
to the world, her only thought in that corner
not to forget him
not to permit forgetting him.
Where has she gone
to leave his garlands fading?
Has she laid down outliving him
after so long, her beautiful
What but death could keep her away
from the place of pilgrimage he gave her
by this cold road?
And who is left behind now
to remember all that sorrow
or to lay flowers
(and where in the world) for her?
Judith Taylor comes from Perthshire and now lives and works in Aberdeen. Her first full-length collection, Not in Nightingale Country, is out now from Red Squirrel Press.
Loving both of these, particularly “Shrine”. Vivid and immediate – I was right in the moment – yet reflective. Very satisfying.