Three new poems from Nick MacKinnon

Lucky to have three new poems from Nick, who’s something of a prize-winning juggernaut – Freezywater won the Enfield Prize judged by Mario Petrucci. Prizes or not, he’s always one to watch – after he read Trace at a Days of Roses event last year I noted  that most people in the room seemed to have something, inexplicably, in their eye…


The bride wears white, a starchy backless gown
set off with bows. The best man has the rings
taped-up with Micropore in case of sparks.
A registrar completes the final checks.
Enter the groom, clad in his stag-night things,
glistening with strippers’ lipstick on his cheeks,
wild-eyed and disbelieving, till he clocks
his in-laws stood like curtains round the bed.
The chaplain turns the heart rate beeper down,
intones the shorter service to be said
in divers time of trouble. Will he have
this woman for his lawful wedded wife,
and faithful for as long as both shall live?
The boy has got her hand: it’s something blue,
and borrowed. Lucky now, he finds that love
is after all enough to see him through:
a heartbeat gives his answer; her “I do”
is signed and witnessed by the cardiograph.


The sky is pulling on glamorous black clouds,
opaque 40s paling over knees and ankle bones
where the moon stretches the nylon vapour.

Her midriff’s untucked darkness
glitters with discount stars, a navel’s dazzle,
blue veined constellations, a meteor seam.

You say you don’t know where the east wind’s been
but it smells of stale wedding reception,
of Coryton sulphur, of used bridesmaid.

It’s left a banquet roll on trestle hills,
confetti drifts where Enfield meets the pavement,
four tiers of icing at Freezywater.

We risk a midnight snog on Turkey Street,
tasting of fruit, the last of your sloe gin,
summer’s leftovers stashed under woolly layers.

Heat-seeking fingers find each other’s armpits;
two reeks back-up in sniffle-stiffened noses
until we gasp in unison for oxygen.

Then, as the squeeze and suck of ribs
swaps steam for second-hand air,
your baby kicks.

You help my hands to find their way
to the familiar funnel of your hips.
You spread my palms to catch the new year’s Morse.

It’s a Friday

when the astrology
of their shift patterns
falls into line
and a full moon
catches them at it.
Their bird book is spread
face down at the tick list:
whose time is this?
I’m the kestrel
glimpsed on her ward round,
my brother a snipe
he nabbed on the beat.

Half my age,
they are lovely and inept.
I could show them
the hoopoe they longed for,
avocets stitching a salt marsh,
ptarmigan in winter kit;
but her aureoles flush
in a topless tan,
fingernails rake
National Service shoulders,
and her whimper repeats
like the nightjar
they’ll never hear.

    • Julia Holden
    • April 29th, 2011

    How lovely Trace is. I heard him read it at Edinburgh Book Festival and I cried then too.

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