This magic lantern show
A child’s life
in a series of passports –
every five years a jump and the frame
of authorised picture subtracts
standard blank background, substitutes
proportionately more face
the same but not.
And is it a gain or a loss,
this poor-man’s magic lantern show
of leap-frogging up to adulthood?
That depends on where you sit.
For the child now no longer such,
they have lost nothing they can see
beyond a few Vaseline-smeared memories.
But the mother who five-yearly
fills out forms, spins seats of photo booths
less and less high, who gathers
used passports together and remembers
each one looked like it would last forever
but was renewed so soon, she feels the loss
one can only feel as time does what it must.
Here, on my lichen painted stool,
cold air blown in from the sea collides
with my own extremities till flesh
becomes hill and glen together
with tear choked streams,
and the winds blow ragged spoor
of a haunted wilderness to me.
I know I am not alone.
Hidden in hillside scrape, gnome-like,
squarely placed at the median
like the old duke of York, neither
at the bottom nor the top, ice eases
in when I inhale, foretelling snow,
but I am happy and will cast
out nets of dream to catch
myself a wish.
Elsewhere in this liminal landscape
filled by emptiness and secrets,
a bird pipes once, twice, thrice,
but before I can eyeball it it’s gone –
a Boojum my inner ornithologist says.
Yes, truly I should have come
in the spring, when everything
was fresh and green.
Still, I will bide awhile. I’ve come late
and I’ve come old, but yet I’ll wait.
For maybe then I’ll see again the lands
beyond our home, where trows play
and giants stravaig.
Trow: fairy creature of the Shetland Islands.
Stravaig: wander, journey.
Author note: a Shetlandic Scots version of this poem can be found in Poetry Scotland issue 100.
Maxine Rose Munro writes in both English and her native Shetlandic Scots. She is widely published in the UK and beyond, including The High Window; Nine Muses Poetry; The Blue Nib; and Ink, Sweat and Tears where she was voted in as pick of the month for July. Find her here www.maxinerosemunro.com