Poems by Andy Jackson (Scotland)
Published in Issue 27
I am heir-apparent to a graceless dynasty,
building my portfolio in landmines, driving
up the price of grain in fourth-world nations,
asset-stripping, selling futures. Trade is thriving.
I’ve not been clean since sixteen but the vices
of my past can now be treated as diseases.
It’s great to be straight, but spritzing water
into Bolly was the neatest trick that Jesus
ever turned. Did I tell you how I had my way
with mother, daughter and precocious cousin,
all of them within a week, none of them aware
that I had bagged the set? There are dozens
of them out there if you know the places
where they go. Once they sniff the stench
of middle age they’re panic-buying petrol
for the fires their husbands cannot quench.
I take day-trips to
sleeping with the locals, spitting in their cider.
In my dreams I’m crouching in a jungle hide,
gun in hand, waiting for the last white tiger.
Today I came across a tiny wounded bird,
wings disjointed, heart ballooning in the wreck
of feathers. I smoothed them down, looked
into its trusting eye, and wrung its neck.
As one young thing is squeezed into the light,
his first breath fortified with all the brightness
of the age, another wheezes in the darkness
till the dark expunges all he knows – the nights
delivering the dozen sketches that have made
his name, fresh each time to Regals and Locarnos
in the provinces. Now, there’s just a sad lacuna
where he ought to be, the nights he played
and slaughtered them in Birkenhead and York
don’t make footnotes on an empty page. Cigarette
in hand, he lurks downstage, a wraith in silhouette,
fakes the slur and stagger, and yet when he talks
you know he is the only sober person in the place.
I watch the grainy twitches of his subtle craft
turn to vinegar, the muscle memory of a laugh
now just a vacant look on Our Eli’s leather face.
Andy Jackson was born in 1965 in Salford and moved to Scotland in 1992. In his day job, he is the Medical Librarian at Dundee University. His poems have appeared in Magma, Blackbox Manifold, Trespass and New Writing Scotland, among other publications. He was winner of the National Galleries of Scotland competition in 2008 and the inaugural Baker Prize in 2012. His first collection The Assassination Museum was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2010, and he was editor of Split Screen: poetry inspired by film & television, published in 2012, also by Red Squirrel. He is currently co-editing an anthology of poetry about the city of Dundee with W. N. Herbert, for publication in 2012 by Dundee University Press.
Image: "Cat Catching a Bird" by Pablo Picasso.