Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Poems from the Backroom 101: Bridget Khursheed

And now the Borders - another area rich in poetry and lore. Once upon a time the folk there were our near neighbours and fellow reivers and all you had to do to see them was gallop over a hillside to steal their coos but now thanks to Scotland’s public transport system it’s easier to go to Madrid than travel from Dumfries to Hawick. They have got some great writers though so we are dallying for a few days in the land of Thomas the Rhymer and the beautiful abbeys the English were fond of burning down in the company of a poet, a troubador and a playwright, what fun!

The poet first, and an unusual one, as she's a self proclaimed computer geek, studying for an MSC in Cyber Security. Bridget Khursheed's poetry inhabits, as well as the usual places, "disruptive text, sound art, art poetry, spoken word, scraps, recipes, contextual poetry, peripatetic writing, engineering, hacking, online text". I wonder how much the world of scraps and computer codes is akin in a way to the continual stream of fragments that make up our narratives and histories, geographical and personal. Bridget was coordinator of 'Writing Fragments/Fragments' project (a partnership between Historic Scotland and Hawick Heritage Hub supported with funding from Creative Scotland) which sought creative responses to the Hawick Missal, a scrap of medieval music found recently, a tantalising part of our cultural code.

Bridget Khursheed is based in the Borders and is a  Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award winner for poetry. She was shortlisted for the original Dr Gavin Wallace Fellowship. Her work is featured in publications including 'The Eildon Tree', 'Stravaig', 'Poetry Scotland',' 'The Rialto',' HU', 'Ambit', 'Northwords Now', 'New Writing Scotland', 'The London Magazine', and 'Gutter'.'  She has a collection of poems from Twinlaw called ‘Roads to Yair.”

Here she is reading 'Glass Eels'from 'The Cormorant' magazine:

Bridget's Blog here:

Glass eels

'By the time the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) reach our shores, they have developed into tiny glass eels that swim against the current into Europe's rivers.'  Eels: A Natural and Unnatural History by Christopher Moriarty

Once elvers, rammed tight like matchsticks,
reflecting burnbridge amid infinite journey
swam a freshwater daytrip in my growing mind:
harvest of eels, jellied fish, or cold alien
yet also translucent and touchable;
they made the water apparent, walkable.

A stream contoured by pencils that map Atlantic
crossing distances science thought too far.
Until tagged eels, one metre muscle, Galway-released,
relocate south using a pump of current
rewriting the subtropical gyre system;
jetpacking open ocean into Caribbean spawnbeds.

At night these eels pulse shallow in warm water:
pilgrims-in-a-desert, they forget food
and spend their days at depth, perhaps
to confuse predators. Contrary coldbath delays spurts,
avoids the lumps and bumps of fertility;
let’s them swim sleek by night in streamline.

Until they themselves birth tides.
Eggs hatched into leptocephalus, transparent larvae
in gulfsoup, floating a Sargasso sea furrow;
still shards, the sinuous snap in our tight channels.
And somehow synapse logic breaks.
Somehow the glass eels relight the home burn.


Your body is a machine,
it works. Ducts, pipes, tissue, tubes,
the heart belching blood —
a saggy bucket
connecting to three more —
it is impossible to regulate
pressure up and down
and failing

into holding pools
or furred
and weed-clogged canals
to idly loop in the defunct, yes,
industrial complex
and stop.

Your body is not a machine,
the way your heart works
is not architecture and
not a river system
but this map of tattered colours
embracing all the ports,
the moors, heath, marshes, mountain pass,
deserts and the sea;
not a road, no, not even
the movement of cars
ribboning through
a long high street;

the commute to
necessary extremities.
The smeared space between
wheel or foot or road and destination
is life itself:
the push forward
flux of messages exchanged

a hurriedly made-up parcel
and the desperate race back home.

(From 'The Interpreter's House')

Standing on top of the National Museum of Scotland

We find the roof garden.
Its little patch of moorland, birches,
heather so perfect it might hide
grouse turd, quartz, even Tunnock wrappers.
A mountain peak handkerchief
picnic-pack pooled
until the air all around is streaked with dry
leaves and the ghost of pollen.

And the sky opens out above all the glass
inaccessible VIP pathways.
How did we get here like this?
And the face of volcanos: did I mention
Arthur’s Seat with its buzz cut of tourists?
Will one of them fly?
Fighting vertigo with talk and tin cans,
the children snail the big rocks,
impossible here, and the glinty light
changes. And I feel happy
lifting off slightly over to Blackford Hill
and Salisbury Crags, bigger than
anything this family thing.

And as we trooped down to the café;
the blank plastic clock below
cried out the hour like birdsong
telling me later
that was the moment that you died.

(From 'Ink Sweat and Tears')

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