Two Poems by Ross Wilson

Scent Rising


The only sounds from doorsteps now

are occasional knocks, slams.

Once, names of bairns

were roared from steps by mums

when night dissolved the light

we played in down by the burn,

up Blairadam, over the quarry.


I stank like a dug, my dad has said.

How I smell that scent rising

into my nostrils now –

bracken, pine, grass, leaves, sap, sweat,

dog shit. Yet so much fresh air

filled our nostrils then, we were higher

than the grown-ups we played beneath. 





for Keith Mitchell


I know Keith is in because the drunks 

congregating by the wine shop 

beneath his flat are pointing and shouting at 

the wide open window and speaker 

positioned on the sill blasting Wagner

down upon them like boiling oil

pouring from a castle turret into their ears – 

the artist under siege in his ivory tower!


I let myself in and manoeuvre around 

canvases rolled, framed, stacked in a hall 

like a production line managed by a Bohemian, 

each painting uniquely its own. 

The sun spotlights an easel set up 

in the living room where Keith 

is busy painting Columbo 

and the Crucifixion.


It’s upside down, I tell him, 

as if that’s news to him. 

It’s easier to paint that way, he tells me.

YIR MUSIC’S SHITE! they tell us, so

Keith cranks the volume and shows me 

a bust he sculpted out of chocolate.

I call it Chocolate David Icke, he says, 

reaching for a bottle of Johnnie Walker.


In cafés and bars I’ve been taken as his carer 

when his dandy garb and arty gub 

rub locals the wrong way and rip 

eyelids from faces that sway 

back from his presence like a punch.

When asked where he’s from – Kelty –

people tell him: 

Ir ye fuck! 


But in his studio-flat or gallery, 

where they can see the evidence 

of what he does, of who he is, 

mouths shut, eyes open,

imaginations bloom. 

YouTubing John Coltrane, 

Keith pours a dram, explains:

I make sense in this context.



Ross Wilson was raised in Fife, Scotland. His poems have appeared in Edinburgh Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and The Honest Ulsterman , among others. His pamphlet The Heavy Bag was published by Calder Wood Press and his first full collection will be published by Smokestack Books in 2018. 



Image credit: Keith Richards Mitchell

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