Menopausal Thunderstorm, poems by Magi Gibson
Scottish poet Magi Gibson has had five collections published, including Wild Women of a Certain Age, now in its fourth print run. The National described her latest, Washing Hugh MacDiarmid’s Socks as “A joy to read”. She’s won several writing awards including the Scotland on Sunday/Women 2000 Poetry Prize, has held three Scottish Arts Council Writing Fellowships, has been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, and Writer in Residence in Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art and Glasgow Women’s Library. Poems appear in many anthologies, including Modern Scottish Women Poets, Scottish Love Poems (both Canongate) and The Twentieth Century Book of Scottish Poetry (Edinburgh University Press). She was the first Makar of the City of Stirling in Scotland in 500 years. Currently she edits The Poets’ Republic and performs regularly with Word Jazzology in Scotland. She also runs Wild Women Writing workshops and has published several novels for children. www.magigibson.co.uk
rain hammers black fists
at the midnight door
the wind howls at the windows
the dog cowers in the corner
Kate throws back a whisky, kicks
off her shoes, strips off her
her cotton underwear
and fifty years
of prim propriety
in the garden
whoops, leaps, dances
glows and gleams
that billow dark
as witches’ petticoats
her husband gawks,
at the window,
turned glass-eyed toad
a cataclysmic crack
the skies apart
Kate’s fingers spark
Underneath the No Waiting At Any Time sign
where a homeless man’s been dossing
on cardboard in a doorway, someone
has scrawled in white chalk
I CAN SEE INTO YOUR SOUL
a phrase that snags on the ragged nail
of my consciousness as I walk onto
Great Western Road, past the kebab shop
and the graffiti-scratched bus stop
where a drunk is singing obscenities
into the cold ear of the east wind.
I can see into your soul
seven small syllables that susurrate
at the edges of my days
with the insouciance of the sinless
and flutter softly at the dark windows
of my dreams like the feathered wings
of the guardian angel I stopped
believing in when I was eight.
So when three Jehovah’s Witnesses
in the fading winter light at the side door
of Oran Mor offer me a Watchtower
with added eschatological warnings,
I wonder if just to be rid of this message
messing with my brain, making me fret
about death and the afterlife and sin, I should
pass the Good News on, that up around the corner
in a dead end street where no waiting is permitted
for All Eternity there’s a down-and-out dossing
in a doorway who can see into their Immortal Souls,
when from the frozen branches
of a black-boughed tree
at the red-amber-green lights where
four roads meet and the traffic roar
stops starts stops, and you can hardly hear
the pound of your own heartbeat, the song
of a blackbird rises into the city dusk,
scattering sparks of stardust
like a tiny resurrection.
Her boots go with him everywhere
in a zipped Adidas shoulder bag.
A red leather ankle pair she loved to wear
even when the cancer was walking her away.
They travel now on trains and planes
to places she will never see. Once there, he
finds a spot, arranges them before the view,
and with the camera she loved, he documents
her ongoing presence, her aching absence
in his world. At Ground Zero they pose solemnly.
In Sydney, sunshine spotlights them like starlets
on the steps before the Opera House. See! At a magic
finger-click they look as if they might dance off, high-kicking
in their harlot-scarlet glory for the hell of it. But now,
at sunset on the darkening sand at Bantry Bay, they linger
by the lapping water’s edge as he recounts the day
she begged he help her from her sterile clinic bed
so she could buy them – best Spanish leather
with Cuban heels that clicked and clacked to match
her gypsy soul, and how she wore them straight away,
even though with swollen legs and chemo cocktails coursing
through her veins and brain she could barely stand.
Ravaged and wrecked and beautiful, he says.
Do you think I’m strange, he asks as gently he slips
a hand inside each one, where faint prints
of her toes are stained, where traces of her cells remain.
If only the world were full of such strangeness, I reply.
If only the world were full of such love.
Berets of Humanity
At the bus stop where the wind’s trying to kill us
slicing in like a scimitar from Siberia,
a tiny woman wears a colourful velvet beret.
She’s so small, I see each segment of its circle sitting
on her head like the wheel of a stained glass window,
emerald, sapphire, saffron, indigo, amber, red.
She beams when I say it’s beautiful, tells me its story;
a gift from her daughter years ago. She deemed it
too bright, too loud, stuffed it in a drawer. And now
her daughter’s dead. Years later, the bus stop
in St Vincent Street, maybe it’s the same wind, slicing
in from Siberia, snow and ice spitting through
its sharpened teeth. A young woman says,
‘I love your hat!’ It’s a beret of sorts. Mulberry wool.
‘Well cool,’ she says. ‘Unusual.’
‘It’s from a charity shop,’ I reply. Then she admires
my scarf. Hand-woven in India. Peacock blue. Fair-trade.
And while the bus doesn’t come, we talk carbon footprints,
pollution, climate change, and I see she’s carrying
an art portfolio under one arm, while on her shoulders
she bears the worries and the future of the world,
and I swear her smile’s so beautiful, this student girl
I’ve never met before, she’s lighting up
the shelter like an angel in a holy grotto
while all around the drear November dusk descends
black as the wings of ravens. And the glow
from her face warms me more than my woollen
kind-of-beret or my hand-woven peacock blue
Fair Trade scarf or best thermal underwear
from Marks & Spencer, or my specially lined duvet
coat as worn by explorers to far frozen Antarctica
guaranteed to keep me warm at minus 50 in a hurricane,
and as we chat I recall the tiny lady’s velvet beret,
its jewelled wheel of colours, and her sadness as she said
she wore it now to please her daughter, who is dead.
And all the while the darkness deepens as if the sky
is leaking sin, and the east wind with its icy breath
from Siberia does its best to kill us and cut like a scimitar
through the warmth of our common humanity.
© Magi Gibson