Two Poems

Kathleen Jamie

The Green Woman

Until we’re restored to ourselves
by weaning, the skin jade
only where it’s hidden
under jewellery, areolae still tinged,
– there’s a word for women like us.

It’s suggestive of the lush
ditch, or even an ordeal,
– as though we’d risen,
tied to a ducking-stool,
gasping, weed-smeared, proven.

The Black and White Minstrel Show

Out there lay the dark continent, hot
with our mums and dads
and the Heidie. We were fevered
with nerves, suddenly on,
doing what we’d practised all term ...

What did we know
of Al Jolson? What did we know
of the South, here in Midlothian?
We had one Gaelic-speaking boy,
and briefly, an Australian;

we just waved our sweet hands
under the stage lights: The sun
shines east, the sun shines west,
... my heart strings tangled around
a wee harled school in the rain

where we were ‘the lassies’,
stood in a row in our starched dirndl
party-frocks, giving it ‘doo-dah!
And, perhaps, beginning to wonder
how only the boys got to fall on one knee

at the last bar of ‘Mammy’
– how only boys got to be Black.
But we crossed our neat ankles
and bobbed, suspicious
the high streamers of whistles

were really for them, the laddies,
who milked it, waving and bowing
as the curtain came down on their
boot-polished faces, their grins,
the astonishing whites of their eyes.