Nuala Watt

SKIVERS' SONG

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Here comes the skiversí song, again.
The tuneís a long-lived so and so.
it travels fast from brain to brain

and sets a story on the go:
the quasi-sick. Day in, day out.
The rhetoric clings like mistletoe:

alm-swallower and layabout.
On it drones, wonít leave us be.
Itís long on hearsay, short on doubt.

One chord for a polyphony
of beings, past and present tense.
Research: the cadence booms at me

in scenes from plague-bedeviled France
Maimed beggars dash away from health –
a saintís gift of a missing sense –

in case work interferes with wealth.
The figures flee. Their ailmentís brief.
They force on me a shadow self


I do not want. Iím not a thief.
Like them Iím squint, (my private word,)
and still I live with this belief.

So while these ghosts are disinterred,
dissected, glossed, as light relief
once more the song is overheard

on last nightís bus. Sheís lost the source,
but she is quick. "Not you, of course".

Itís older than the begging bowl –
almost as difficult to thole.

Strong. Harder to withstand than pain,
here comes the skiversí song, again.

* * *

INVIGILATION

Listen to the audio version.

Do not eat, sleep, read, knit, text or do any work unrelated to invigilation.

I am a queen inside this room.
I must switch on the crescent moon

that blocks all sound; illegal beeps
will not occur if my phone sleeps.

I have practised this in prayer:
silence, silence, everywhere.

The hall is sealed. The papers lie
like pale-blue sphinxes. Iím a spy.

Independent actionís banned
so I have handkerchiefs on hand.

I must begin my solemn stalk.
I have to do the flying walk

that keeps me upright – both arms braced
like phoenix wings. Bang, clatter, clunk.

I am the monarch of my tea.
No happening can flummox me.

Still, desperate to be orthodox
I ask advice of seven clocks.

I cannot see the farthest row
so have to let transgressions go.

One row describes the love of God.
the other how a horse is shod.

They draw up plans to build degrees
whilst I am startled by a sneeze.

I must endeavour to be sage:
a despot on a basic wage.

 

Nuala Watt lives in Glasgow. She has cerebral palsy, a visual impairment and epilepsy. She recently completed a PhD from the University of Glasgow on poetics and partial sight. Her poems have appear in Magma and Gutter, on BBC Radio three, in a recent anthology of new Scottish Poetry Be the First to Like This and in the anthology Stairs and Whispers. In 2015 she received a John Mather Charitable Trust bursary from the Scottish Poetry Library.