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Robert Crawford, 20 April 2006

... after the Latin of George Buchanan (1506-82) Diogio de Murca, Head and King, Rector of Coimbra University, We all admire the way you’ve got ahead, But your Sub-King Co-ordinator of Commercialisation, your Head of Advanced, Enhanced Entrepeneurship, that wee Master Beleago, MBA (Monster of Bestial Accumulation) Whose ugly hooves tramp on our heads Is so pigheadedly convinced That he has wholly Mastered Being Ahead Of us, your mere human resources, he Goes and sells off everything: sells goats, Sells pigs, sells cattle, killing Whole herds so he can sell and sell; Birds of the air, fish of the sea – He sells the lot: your pears and nuts, Plums, peppers, reconditioned cucumbers Grown in your labs, your onions, garlic, Capers and corianders sprouting In students’ grassy gardens – all for sale ...

Camera Obscura

Robert Crawford, 8 January 2015

... Nae knickers, all fur coat Slurped Valvona and Crolla, Tweed-lapelled, elbow-patched, tartan-skirted, Kilted, Higgs-bosoned, tramless, trammelled and trammed, Awash with drowned witches prematurely damned, Prim as skimmed milk, cheesily floodlit, breezily, Galefully, Baltically cold with royal Lashings of tat and Hey-Jimmy wigs, high on swigs Of spinsterish, unmarried malt; City of singletons, salt Of the tilled earth, castled, unqueened, unkinged Capital of no one knows what yet, bankers’ Losses mounting your besieged Acropolises, the Waverley snow Spattering on Sir Walter’s deerhound, agley This way and that, on the black cat Crossing the kirkyard, the cartoon lassie With the silver tassie, the boy With a toy gun gunning for Covenanters, The carlin ranting by the Water of Leith, the filed, billable teeth Of lawyers, not proven under a barefaced cheek Of chloroform, high-tea sunsets, Jennerdoms of discreetest passion, Lace curtains drawn over mooning cannonballs, randy as the barrel of Mons Meg, All brass bells unpolished, Magdalenism, Darwinian butchery, Knox-talk, broderie, Brodies, bestial vennels, Drug deals done under far too many bridges, Midges, lost Provosts, the whole Botanic jing-bang, Rhododendrons and ducks, fresh pasta and spliced Paolozzis, Ramparts, rampant kirks, laddies’ and ladies’ hat-works, David Humery, domes with hearty, clarty splashings, The crowned spire, the dungeons, the crags, the old lags, the seagulls Raucous on carless early mornings, the Firth of Forth perjink past crowsteps Of informatics, draughty parallelograms, pandas and heritage pubs, Cannons pointing rudely down the Canongate, the New Town’s trig Windowboxes geraniumed for suffragettes’ parades, The Bioquarter, the Quartermile, the hanged, drawn, and quartered, Halls, gardens, harpsichords, waterfalls, jiggings and jeggings, Festivals, Days Estival with lawyers’ clerks, and couthy, uncouth doctors, Surgeons’ Hall surgeons, the burked dead, the Fringe, the redheads, Hoaxed hexes, Samhain dreamers, schemies, Anaemic academics, to-die-for grass, strollers, statuesque stalkers Capering on parade with fire-eaters, unicyclists, caber-tossers, pipes and drums Youtubed ad infinitum, the heady, reikie breath, and the rush of breathless newbies Just off the train and already never leaving ...

Three poems

Robert Crawford, 29 November 2001

... My Husband’s CV King of England from 1461, born Atlanta, Georgia, always Zealous Orleanist, became Cricketer, administrator, son Of trade unionist, Irish mother leader Of Gaelic revival, debuting Covent Garden, Wurttemberg, Sardinia; fought Crimean War, Fifth of seven, acquiring nickname ‘Hetman of the Cossacks of the Don’. After carrying army across Bosporus on bridge of boats, married (19), becoming Government official (wife (1), Gave Shakespeare readings over twenty years, Founding Eragny Press ...

Four Poems

Robert Crawford, 4 August 1994

... Us Silence parked there like a limousine; We had no garage and we had no car. Dad polished shoes, boiled kettles for hot-water bottles, And mother made pancakes, casseroles, lentil soup On her New World cooker, its blue and cream Obsolete before I was born. I was a late, only child, campaigning For 33 rpm records. Dad brought food parcels from City Bakeries In crisp brown paper, tightly bound with string ...

Two Poems

Robert Crawford, 15 September 1988

... Opera Throw all your stagey chandeliers in wheelbarrows and move them north To celebrate my mother’s sewing-machine And her beneath an eighty watt bulb, pedalling Iambs on an antique metal footplate Powering the needle through its regular lines, Doing her work. To me as a young boy That was her typewriter. I’d watch Her hands and feet in unison, or read Between her calves the clear wrought-iron letters: SINGER ...


Robert Crawford, 21 August 2014

... Baghdad of the West, gallimaufry of Zahahadidery, Heavy with locos, liners, yards and docks Docked now of shipyards, sculpted, purled into shining Titanium hulls where Wild West meets West End, Your square-bashing sandstone kremlin an offcut of Venice, Your galleries a showy clone of Santiago de Compostella, One-off of sugar and gallusness, Adam Smith and preening baroque, Art-schooled from birth, ark, blast-furnace of ship-in-bottle Models and artwork, arsenic, scuffed footballs and chips, Unsafe haven of hard matriarchs and lasses’ backchat, after-hours Capital of banana boots and over-the-top porcelain fountains, Wannabe Paris, pre-Chicago Chicago, Fifty-first state of glottal-stopped, reeling smirr In Helen of Troy rainhoods, your Charles Rennie Mackintosh brooch Fogged with drizzle, champagned with Victorian catarrh; Tenemented redoubt of roll-ups, landed with God’s geology To use as your doormat, viridian lochs and bens, Renaissance anvil of spires and boot-scrapers, Scotia Bar of bards, Gay hardmen’s last stand, palace of perished velveteens, All second-city edginess, fossil grove, puddled panache, Operatic, fat, incessantly jumpy with static, Gralloching yourself, tearing yourself apart To hit back through lesions or drooled ferro-concrete bridges, Jokes and spread-betting, canals, class-war and bombs Flung by staunch hunger-strikers, polis of asbestos spit, Morphing into a stained-glassed, ran-dan, ram-stam disco Of theme-pub banks intact with mahogany counters, Gothic lavvies, high flats, giddy deserts wi windaes Looking out on the lashing, softening, incoming rain Of tomorrow, its wetness honeycombed in glasshouses, Tobacco lords and dry Snell Exhibitioners, fish that never swam, Inner-city dolphins glimpsed off the starboard side, Spanish Civil War fighters, Gorbals Lascars and lazars, Lens-sellers, subway keelies, bibliographers Bowling on bowling greens or strolling to Bowling or high In library corridors hoisted by gaunt, spinal cranes Seen from the Green, that Champs-Elysées of peely-wally faces Hungry for liberté, égalité, fraternité In all their forms, despite the imperial sweat Of plunder they profited from, the feared years of tears and blood Shed at home in domestic violence, Cath-Prod slashings, and away Mismatches in thin red lines that still hurt, but can’t stop The levity that’s yours and yours alone and will last Longer than Horatian bronze just because it’s laughter ...


Robert Crawford, 11 March 2010

... Year in, year out The guide still follows A well-paced route Through those small rooms Until the tour group Have all been told And told again About the diarist, About the poet, Brother and sister, Husband and wife; So their plain life Stays still Green in the rain, The stress Less on fame Than on wee mundane Details: How He once failed To neatly ink His name Inside the lid Of His sole suitcase, Though He did Just Find space For that last aitch North of the rest Of wordswort And hunched in the small Window seats You can hear Repeated Still Year in, year out How they strode off-road Down gills, by crags Over the hills, Then nightly cleaned their teeth With salted twigs Dipped In polishing soot From the grate, the hearth, And how The Great Poet of the Heart Walked and talked And talked and talked About his cuckoo clock; How Mrs De Quincey tripped With a bucket of coals; How Coleridge called Then later screamed, Locked In an upstairs room’s Opium dream; How when winter came They skated on the lake, William nicely Getting his skates on To slice His zigzag initials Precisely As he whizzed By on the ice; How, through long nights, They quizzed Friends, Lighting a candle’s rushlight At both ends; How, fond of good food At his Edinburgh club, Walter Scott thought They downed too much porridge, So sneaked out a window To dine well at the pub; How every five weeks They washed their underclothes; What the rent cost; How frost Made the children ill And how those children slept Cold, and no doubt wept In their room upstairs Above the downstairs chill Of an underground stream That streamed More and more Up through the floor Of that slate-floored larder; How Mary Loved Point d’Angleterre lace; And the whole place, Dark now, was dark then, Walls all smoke-blackened, reeking ...

Croy. Ee. Gaw. Lonker. Pit

Robert Crawford, 19 July 2001

... Croy. Ee. Gaw. Lonker. Pit. Croy: an animal pen, a rained-on pigsty Snorting with mooning bums of bacon, snouts Spike-haired, buxom, Pictish-beasty, rank. Croy. Ee. Gaw. Lonker. Pit. Croy. Once, dogging off a dig on the Antonine Wall, Knees-to-chin in the back of a Beetle near Croy, I eyed the triumphal arches of Castlecary’s British Empire viaduct above Turfed-over Roman barracks ...

Two Poems

Robert Crawford, 12 November 1998

... here, he waits to meet my mother, For a first date at St Martin in the Fields. Here, his father, Robert, catches light On his own deathbed, pipe and Press and Journal Combusting in a way none can control. Manse rooms huddle, fill with Shetland ponies, London tubes. There is no here. Here goes. En te oikia tou Patros mou monai pollai eisin: In my Father’s ...

Two Poems

Robert Crawford, 20 September 2007

... Wool and War after the Latin of Florentius Wilson of Elgin (c.1500-47) Never mind our European allies. The Arab snuggles into wool. It’s worn By peoples round the delta where the Nile Courses down from sky-high mountain peaks, Splashing broad fields each year, slashing across The desiccated soil of Libya In one grand arc. Upscale designer dressers Sport wool in old Damascus, and so too Does the Cilician youngster when not bathing In sparkling Cydnus ...

Emily Carr

Robert Crawford, 28 November 2002

... For Alice and Marjorie Klee Wyck Laughing One they call Through soaked air on Vancouver Island Where she snores adenoidally in roadmakers’ toolsheds Inches down night-chilled slimy rungs To the tippiness of a canoe One woman British Columbia Nosing among floating nobs of kelp The bay buttered over with calm Parents christened her Emily Carr Wee f ...

Four Poems

Robert Crawford, 16 November 2000

... The Auld Enemy There they are, bonny fechters, rank on tattery rank, Murderer-saints, missionaries, call-centre workers, Tattoos, Bunneted tartans weaving together Darkest hours, blazes of glory, Led by a First Bawheid, rampant, hair fizzin, sheepsheared, Scrummin doon, pally wi their out-of-town allies, Wallace fae Califaustralia, Big Mac, an Apple Mac, Back from the backwoods, wi Rob Fergusson, Hume, Sawney Bean – See how yon lot yawn and yell and stretch Right owre from Blantyre tae Blantyre, Perth to subtropical Perth! Wait till ye catch the whites o their eyes, aye, The specky, pinky-flecky whites o their eyes Worn out from ogling down a Royal Mile o microscopes, or fou Wi dollars n yen signs, or glaikit wi bardic blindness ...

Four Poems

Robert Crawford, 21 February 2002

... Native Language Overnight I’ve listened to thirty Vancouver stories, Not leaving my room. My jet-lagged ear Tunes in to verticals beaming cold H2O Ten levels higher, twenty ceilings below, Blueprinting every floor of the building, Floating each a little, draining it slowly away Down chutes, round U-bends. Hung-over minibar glasses Emit high pings, a dawn chorus of different pitches, Conjuring water, till this suite itself Gurgles like a basin, though each room’s extractor-fan dry ...

The Exorcist

Robert Crawford, 23 June 2005

... after the Latin ‘Franciscanus’ of George Buchanan (1506-82) A barren haugh. No flowers, no trees for miles. No use for harvest. Barbed-wire thistles spatter Dour, poisoned fields. Bare space. Hoofprints of cows. Dysart, folk call it. Under desert earth Vulcan’s mile-long unmined coal still smeeks In runnelled caves. Random, lung-clogging fires Belch out all over through the veins of rock, Firing up flumes of fumes, and, underfoot, Pica-fine, pitch-black clouds smother the soil ...

Three Poems

Robert Crawford, 4 November 2004

... The Also Ran The hare wasn’t there. The hare was nowhere To be seen, a sheen Of kicked-up dust, the hare’s coat, Every hair of the flank of the hare so sleek, so chic, It was sponsored, it caressed his physique. Out of sight, out of mind, the unsponsored tortoise fell Into a vertical sleep that sank him deep Down in his shell. He dreamed. He smelled the smell Of formula one ...

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