Two Poems by Beth McDonough


in more Scottish summers, were cloched,
or otherwise coaxed, below Grandpa’s glass.
Bent, sparse and spiky. Nigh indigestible.

Given that truth, why did we buy
paired yoghurt pot plants at the charity sale?
To be plopped in the raised bed? I can’t say.

Fruitless vines sprawled, fairly inelegantly.
By zucchini fecundity, they bore
plentiful, small, yellow flowers.

Then yesterday we flicked an enormous leaf.
Huge cucumber. Suddenly triffiding.
Overnight, heat scalpeled skies. Rain blootered in.

Today’s soil dries, newly wild with ambitions
of so many gherkins. Just detected,
six giants pomp in the undergreen.

We observe them outdo other squash,
drip from walls, sprint-knot small tattie shaws.
Quick. There are more ways of pickling.

Keeping low

Scabious lavenders up.
All frilly pincushions,
fluffed in needling sage marram.
Perhaps an undemanding push through sand
by the coastal cycle path. Check.
Long-necked, pale. Ballgowned flowers.

Flirts in the hardly wind, they stir
by tansy’s taut gentleman’s buttons.
Over there, controversial and uncouth
ragwort thrusts. Tempts stirks.
Bothered beasts, not even drawn
to frisk any style in this heat.

White bindweed cracks out, pink-edged
through restraining orderly walls,
shored up over dunes. An attempt to ensure
no-one falls into a zealous sea.
Sand silts into places where lusher times
must freshen with poppies and vetch.

Two burns are gone now. Dry,
under unpickable cress,
flecked in its cream-prickle buds.
That usurper balsam
upstarts, and butterflies land
on plants hardly anyone names.

There are no stars to collect
from this hot-bright sky
burning over our papery land.
No reason to match that lost
helicopter shape to its sound.
Scabious deserves a much kinder name.


Beth McDonough’s work connects strongly with place, particularly to the Tay, where she swims, foraging nearby. Her poetry is published in Gutter, Stand, Causeway and elsewhere. She reviews at DURA. Handfast (with Ruth Aylett) investigates experiences of autism and dementia in verse. McDonough’s first pamphlet will be published in September.

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