John Mackie – four poems


here I go again
movement with action
running hard
as though
all these distances
undo time

she looks
much smaller now
at the edge
wary of wormholes
and other
ways out

for Anna Lavigne

if it is in the voice
it has flooded there
from a thousand years
of sliding quarter-tones
rising in the throat
as mist at dusk
on some dark road
of flight

if it is in the feet
it has table top staccatoed there
high heels tipped with
percussive steel
below an uncurtaining
swish of petticoats

everything is on edge
in the darkest notes of the guitar
beyond the reach of firelight
locked out of the city

in the dusty hinterland
children’s eyes grow huge
swept up in a word that
has danced its beserker’s way
from “goblin”

to insinuate,
to place beneath our skin,
all the seductive sorrow
of the world


no more than a granite plug
to geologists who camped here
as students their tip-tapping
hammers sparking
lumps from Clachan’s shore

for we kids it was volcano
its head sliced flat by fire
forbidden to try for those
icy melt lochans and eagles
the low cloud of Raasay scudding
raising menace high

we carried Dun Caan with us
to cities of exile; narrow skies
struggles with money and breathing
daily wars of value and worth
uprooted, anomic, but always
drawn back to the roar of The Sound

this is no Cuillin
but high enough
after the steep slope winding
through bog and scree
past acidic lochs full of cloud
to quicken the breath
and widen the eye

up here on this plug
the fingers of kin
tug at my sleeve
tomorrow I walk with them
on Calum’s road

To A Younger Self

so you wish, so you say,
to bend your life to the goad
the restless itch of the word
to follow the wisp
of a will …… well,

change your name, address,
bank and passwords frequently
switch utilities and credit cards
learn foreign languages
live abroad whenever you can

use sheaths of noms des plumes
each with a different aesthetic
nipping from autographic
to allographic and back
all the while

you’ll have to put up with blood-type
shoe-size fingerprints and DNA
but coating yourself in PVA
will help you cover
some of your tracks

don’t talk with Roger Scruton
or look in Harry Fainlight’s eyes
for longer than it takes to know
that both are too convinced
to be convincing

don’t sit on the steps of the Albert Memorial
hoping for Wholly Communion
travel on storms
cluster with wildebeest
run from the roaring boys

follow it go with it
let it blow you away,
up all the red dirt tracks
down all the lead sea lanes;
nobody here will miss you

John Mackie is 70 years old, lives in Scotland and has been published in a range of media since 1965. A Strand of Pearls, his music and poetry collaboration with Gavin Sutherland and others, is currently available from iTunes, Amazon etc. John’s website is at