Download PDF Here 13th Anniversary
Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume One December 2022.
Into the West, poems by Ian Watson.
Into the West
In a small town in Alberta,
my Scottish mother meets
the cheerful chair of the local
Highland Dancing Club.
Her name is Oksana Shevchenko –
or was it that lovely Peggy Kovalchuk?
She can’t remember which of the two
it was, but knows that that was the day
she had to realign her map of Canada:
Nova Scotian tartan lobster fishing,
the North Lanark Highland Games,
those Boy Scout hatted Mounties and
the Clyde shipbuilder accordion bands
was the old North British narrative.
But what enticed those ladies’ forebears here
was prairie, ochre waving for a thousand
miles above the river valley.
for Marco Bode
He was surprised how far it flew. Had it
been silk it would have billowed out
and parachuted well before the cage
they festered in. Perhaps it was the sweat
that kept the nylon globular, an arc
coagulated, gaining purchase and momentum.
Then he saw his hand like someone
else’s rise towards the lights and open
like a baby bird to gulp the green and white
striped rainbow with its pot of gold.
Saluting to his temple, watching him
unfold his prize, the number seventeen
heads for the tunnel clapping, turning, trotting
out of sight. The boy is soon forgotten.
So, when the curtain lifts, the act begins;
and when that curtain falls, he beats the slow
retreat, still bowing, lifts his eyes to where
the spotlights were but now are swallowed whole
by layered scarlet velvet; breathes in long
and slow to where the tension is. Then, chin
on chest, he breathes out soft and slow; he lets
his shoulders fall. He washes grease off, stares
at what the colours hide, because he must
return to where the backstage ghosts reside,
that world of plasterboard and hanging dust.
© Ian Watson
Ian Watson is originally from Belfast but lives in Bremen, Germany. Alongside his scholarly and didactic work in both German and English, he is the author of two poetry collections in English, the latest being Granny’s Interpreter (Salmon Poetry 2016); a further collection with Salmon, Somewhere, Far Away, a Radio, is forthcoming. His recent German-language non-fiction includes Spielfelder: eine Fußballmigration, on football and identity, and Bremen erlesen, a literary and cultural guide to his second-home city in Germany (both with Edition Falkenberg). He also publishes translations of poetry from and into German and English. He has worked regularly for radio and also made the film Cool to be Celtic for German and French television (arte 1999). He teaches literary writing freelance in schools and in adult education and is a steering committee member of the Literaturhaus Bremen.