New poems by James Aitchison

A few months back, I shared a poem by James Aitchison on ‘Lyrical Aye Poems’. In my introduction to that poem I explained that the Stirling-based poet had suffered a stroke last year and was still convalescing. Since then James has sent me a dozen new poems from which I’ve selected a handful for this site, I very much hope you enjoy them and I wish James a full and timely recovery.



Sasquatch, Yeti, Loch Ness plesiosaur –
shy creatures hide from our monstrosity.



The first ball game was played with an enemy head.
The first red carpet was the blood of the enemy dead.



The Ratty Burn was an ancient drainage course
that flowed so slowly the water seemed motionless
as it crossed the Carse to the Carron and the Forth.

The Ratty was just beyond the boundary
to the back garden of our new rented house.

The council enclosed the Ratty with concrete pipes
and built more homes for families from the slums.

I didn’t know the rats were water voles
and their presence a proof of cleanliness.

A colony of black rabbits – cast off pets
gone feral? – nibbled the overshadowed grass
by the A91 just south of Bannockburn.

They were only rabbits but I learned to look out
for those black waymarks on our journeys home.

I haven’t seen a roadside rabbit, black
or brown this year or last in Stirlingshire.

Motorway journeys were more bearable
when kestrels hovered above the verges,
eyeing the long grass for the merest twitch:
a grounded nestling, field mouse, grasshopper.

How many years of miles before I saw
kestrels hovering in their absences?



In my new passport the photograph appears
younger, or less old, by twenty years.
He’s like no one I know or ever knew.
The photograph is fictional and true.

The palaeontologist who excavates
footprints on the shore of a lost sea
and classes them as humanoid, back-dates
a million years of our pre-history,
the age of chimpanzees, the Pliocene
age of the primate with a deviant gene.

Poetry’s congenital: I was prepossessed
and found my first poems on an autocue
in my mind. But now a palimpsest
is a truer metaphor, or less untrue.


A Small Child

A small child hears snakes hiss
in her parents’ whisperings

learns the first of guilt
in her parents’ undertones

is abandoned by her parents’ silences

fears snakes
when her mother switches off the light

is unborn in her parents’ absences

knows that the meanings in her parents’ speech
mean more than the meanings of spoken words

may be loved and yet feel desolate


A Paper-boy in Winter

When Mum wakes me at half-past six I moan
and groan. But I’m quite happy on my own.
I don’t feel lonely when I’m all alone.

Sometimes my round feels more like fun than work.
There’s lots of bright street lights in Oakhill Park;
even in winter it’s never really dark.

I saw a fox jump out of a litter bin.
And a strange blue-backed bird, a peregrine –
I looked it up. And a roe deer, twitchy-thin.

I used to tell my friends these things at school.
Friends? They called me a liar and a fool.
My Mum says ‘Just ignore their ridicule.’

I love the falling snowflakes’ spooky glow
around the street lights. And everywhere I go
I’m first to leave my footsteps in the snow.

Up and down garden paths from Oakhill Drive
to Millhouse lane, on snowy mornings I’ve
this feeling: I’m the only boy alive.

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