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My stake in the future
Amidst a world embroiled in suffering and strife, David Ross Linklater proves poetry can offer a small gesture of solidarity
words – david ross linklater
location – glasgow, uk
It’s sad to have to write poems like this. I use ‘have’ half-seriously, because of course I don’t even have to pick up a pen if I don’t want to. But some poems knock louder than others. Some seem to want or need to be written, even if it’s just a form of catharsis for the writer.
There is always something terrible happening somewhere. Though, these last few years it seems the terrors have increased; the potency concentrated, the succession speeding up. Maybe it has always felt that way and I am only now realising it. Maybe that’s my privilege coming through. Maybe it’s my age. It’s the sensation of perpetually being on the cusp of the next appalling event, the next headline. I try to remain positive.
These poems are a way of doing that. Some small gesture of solidarity, of saying no to those who seek to corrupt and set us against each other. I feel obligated to because I can. I feel obligated to for all those who can’t. There’s hope in these poems. The same as someone protesting in the street or signing a petition or singing a song or smiling at a stranger. They are my protest, my stake in the future.
Sometime in February
and today the rocket met the ceiling
of the boy,
petrol stations had their best day of trade,
helicopters poked their noses
into the precious business
today the world leaned in to listen,
today was a heavy bone of a day,
today just wanting to know tomorrow
there was not a lot to say
that has not been said
we forgot to water the plants,
I weighed in at 83.2kg,
the lateral flow came back negative
today 20 miles from Kyiv,
today jets lay down in the grass,
today war was the word
there are always going to be those who think
who go stomping with their big boots
over the world
today googled ‘How big is the Russian army?’,
today scored a point for the party,
tonight the autocrat will sleep well on fine linen
there was not a lot else going
just headlines and veiled threats (read: nuclear)
today 10 miles,
today right on top of it,
today the old woman put seeds in the soldier’s pocket
so that when he dies sunflowers will grow
today the island was a garden of fire,
today all that was stable (read: unstable) toppled,
tonight moody red lights in Europe
It is contaminating to see Earth with her hair
tangled in an illness, her broken jaw.
Close the windows of the Atlantic at this terror.
Look only next door and see the cinder
Big heavies, their faces dull as buttons,
divvy the remaining wild spaces.
Sugar on a rotten tooth, we have lived
as if the rest was unliving, bound not by any
law of science, and the heart coated deep in varnish.
A thin red band is breaking
along the screen, along the horizon.
A bomb big enough to kill all nine of the cat’s lives
Hippies are wearing ties as tipping points lean,
as the golfer chooses the 5 Iron.
People are just glad of a little lightness, an ice cream.
Unpunished murder foliates the ladder.
Nothing is not screaming. Even the thumbtack
begs for mercy, to be stuck so far in a quiet wall
and be done with it.
The idea is to go until there’s no going.
To live beyond that is a useless ambition.
On quiet nights you hear the gulls moan.
The slaughterhouse spills into the street
and the street into the slaughterhouse.
It has all gone a bit sideways.
Dearest multitudes, division is a tricky business
requiring distraction. They seem to have sussed it.
Piece by piece becoming unseen, folding into the muck.
Untie this dark taste from the mouth.
Extensions of our machine selves, we reach
for the clock-in card as we stand in line for death
signing petitions, waiting on prescriptions, having slowly
adjusted to the suffering of innumerable glories.
The hills—hell, seas are burning.
Night is bled out on a chopping board.
The moon heaves its tonnage of tears
and down here, amongst the flashing lights
there’s an application for every heaven, a stone for every bird.
Mercy has flown all the way away.
I Wonder About the View Up There
It must be a kind of bliss,
to be unfeeling. To not see
and plug the ears each morning.
I wonder what the view must be like up there.
Whether you can see the road
stretched out behind,
bodies in the potholes.
The cargo of the plane: boney, fleshy, black
cargo. I wonder what the borders look like
up there, in that plane headed for the bottom.
I wonder whose teeth are sharper,
the wolf’s or the sheep in wolf’s clothing
who say and do and roll over?
I wonder what it takes to scheme, and how
to spin wool so thick and cosy
it nulls citizenries.
I wonder how sleep might come, and if it would be
such a fine and deep sleep
it would bring with it morning sex and a renewed
sense of pride in being alive, of visions
of an even greater ladder to climb.
I wonder of those at the foot of the ladder,
those half way up, the rung width, the rung number
and I wonder of those with no ladder
and their view of feet feet feet
stepping all over them.
I wonder, people, I do I do I do.
I’m not going to sit here and try
to get inside the mind of a volcano
but if you had to keep quiet
you’d throw waves
No doubt about it,
seeing all that and shh,
watching forests grow their cities
and the cities being generally razed
you’d do it,
you’d let them know.
David Ross Linklater is a poet from Balintore, Easter Ross. He is the author of three pamphlets, most recently Scenes from a God Movie [Speculative Books, 2021]. He is the recipient of a Dewar Arts Award and has been shortlisted for both a New Writers Award and the Edwin Morgan Award. His work has appeared in The Dark Horse, Bath Magg, New Writing Scotland and Gutter. He lives and writes in Glasgow.
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