Document 516


Author(s): Sheena Blackhall

Copyright holder(s): Sheena Blackhall


Sleep Fast, We Need the Pillows
(Traditional Polish saying)

I am sleeping as fast as I can
So as not to wear out the pillow.

Pillows are precious
This pink one was mail order
Bought by my mother, now deceased.
Deliberately nylon, so it never creased.

Half of a matching set
Except they never matched
Was this one his or hers?
It'll outlive us all.
Immune to disease, to moth
The ultimate mort-cloth.

If I unpicked it, what secrets would it tell?
Pillows are fickle, shameless. Promiscuous.
Pillows lie down with anyone.

When I, too, am dead,
Oh pillow, who then will hold you close?
Whose dreams will run like rivers
Round your frills?

I'm Pulling Myself Together

I'm pulling myself together. Has anyone seen my ears?
I know they're hiding somewhere...They're quite distressed, poor dears.

I'm pulling myself together. I seem to have lost my nose..
It's maybe beside the fly spray, in the shed with the garden hose.

I'm pulling myself together. My teeth, my lips, my hair
Last spotted lay in a tangle, in the box beneath the stair.

I'm pulling myself together. Oh, where's my public face?
The one that I pretend with that I'm part of the human race?

I'm pulling myself together. I'm stitching up the seams
But now that I'm patched and mended, has anyone seen my dreams?


There's a Hope locked up in my loft. It's not forgotten
It's kept in a jar with a pin and an old brass button
You'd probably say it's past its sell-by date
It's mutton dressed as lamb. It's far too late
For it to go to the show and win the prizes
How do you know, sourpuss? Hope's full of surprises!

You can keep the books, the debris, the horrible china
The catalogue clock and the cobwebby vagina
You can keep the lot... I've something up my sleeve
Hope is hitching a ride when I up and leave.

Hope's warm and private, a furtive, secret thing
Like belly button fluff or a cast off ring
I don't intend to lose it or throw it out
When I'm old and I've lost my teeth
I intend to shout 'Bring out my Hope
Let me look on its lovely face
For it's going with me when I quit the human race!'

Charon's Passengers

Inspiration: Painting entitled 'The Stages of Life' by Caspar Friedrich.

Into the silent water, slips the silent prow
Lifting the dripping anchor over the tilting bow.

There's no star on the skyline, past the silver moon
All the world it ferries, in secret, late or soon.

Into the faint horizon where no man comes back
Each man travels lightly. Each man takes no pack.

All the world it ferries, in secret, late or soon
Into the faint horizon, past the silver moon.

The Clay Speaks to the Potter

A kyrielle for Sandy Petrie, Aboyne Acdemy Art Department and the late Leo Clegg, Gray's School of Art Schoolhill.

When Eden's tree put out its leaf
Its roots with my dark side did pleat
You were created from my bones
The gentle dust beneath your feet

Holder of honey, milk and wine
The cup where lip and liquid meet
I am the fragments ground by Time
The gentle dust beneath your feet

The hatchery of history
Older am I than wood, than peat
I am the child of storm and stone
The gentle dust beneath your feet

Touch me. I yield, take any shape
Then turn my face towards the heat
Of transformation in the kiln
The gentle dust beneath your feet

And when you step from light and life
Into the tomb, so cool, so sweet
I will enfold you at the last
The gentle dust beneath your feet.

Jacob's ladder

Inspired by Stephen Campbell's Painting: Gardening Barbers Debating in a Small Airplane Garden

Jacob's ladder soars from bins and shop-fronts.
Masonic angels wearing bovver boots
Working the day shift, clip the beanstalk trellis
That hug the nebulous sides of misty steps,
Dusted by night squad angels' dusky wings.

Such a ladder
(a Spiritual Forth Road Bridge
In constant need of repair)
Symbolically ferries
Storybook Giants,
Jacks, knaves, Aces, Kings
Discarded heroes
Mourned (and unmourned) lovers
And penguins who ascend its heights with hoists.
This tower of fable
This Babel of to-ings and fro-ings
Doesn't teeter like Pisa.
No Rapunzel's hair hangs from its Heavenly lair.

What's there?
What's up at the ladder top?
Iron-shuttered bookies? Urban terrorists masking pots of tea?
A tiger picking its teeth with a pheasant's feather?
What's the climate like? Is it fair or stormy weather?
Is there a Fast Food Palace serving loaves and fishes?
Are there security angels to oust intruders?
Illegal imps and demon asylum seekers?

The ladder is ancient. At its rickety feet
Dragons and skinheads sleep
Palaces tumble. Myths, abandoned, weep.


After a Tarot reading by Catriona Low

A long white table. Seven golden bowls.
The first holds passion, red as burning coals
Ripped out, a trophy in the chalice mouth
Love slain that once was East, West, North & South.

The next is golden. Here, the lotus grows.
(The heart's dark cave with Buddha-petals glows)
While in the third, a clever severed head
In isolation floats, by isms fed.

The fourth bowl overflows with fruits of sound
The butterfly of music spirals round
Its tongue is honeyed. Here, it flits and sings
Humming delight with diamond-flashing wings.

In the fifth chalice, shining like a sword,
A steely snake emerges. Thought, made word
Power sits hissing in its slits of eyes
For it is ancient, venomous and wise

The last two bowls sit close. The sixth is deep,
A pit of dreams where pearls and dragons sleep.
All journeys start and end in this dark cup,
A rainbow from its black well rises up
A ghostly bridge, as faint as morning's blush
That loads the hair-tip of the artist's brush
But in the seventh, images drop down
Into a poisoned bowl, to blur and drown.

Seven golden bowls on a white table sit,
Apart and yet each is a part of it.
The snake's acknowledged. Honour's in its hoard.
The seventh bowl is bitter, but adored.

New Cottage Industry: The Egg-Head

In the writers' farm
I am free range
I don't want my eggs in one basket
I want to be broody in lark's houses
In hare's forms.

I want to produce triangular eggs that bounce
Or square ones with sky-blue yolks
I want to bark instead of cluck
And maybe have metal feathers
And at the end, please
A lion stamped on my poems
To prove they are up to scratch.

The Psychiatrists' Safari

We are going on safari today to catch psychiatrists.
You must be quick to catch one,
As a tribe they are slippery as a slide in Vladivostok.

Their chemical constitution
Is two thirds sulphur, one third gas and treacle.
They cultivate anonymity under white coats
Their diet is diagnosis
Fed by the slow dissection of egos
Succulent as vol aux vents.

In the human zoo, someone is always outside,
Someone is always in.
We are going on safari today, to capture psychiatrists,
Pied Pipers of brats and brawlers
And mind-states of no fixed abode.


A litterbin of the past, one dented tartan tin
Holds a key to a something no-one quite remembers
Buttons of Sunday jacket, Saturday's dance dress.
There is also a red pencil, 'Braemar' in golden letters,
Stamped on its side.

Buttons, key, pencil,
Have never grown fatter or thinner.

The buttons have lost their owners, but do not mourn them.
In the manner of buttons they are quite hard, quite brazen.

One button shone from my brother's blazer pocket.
Over the thunderous organ, his long, white fingers
Pressing keys, releasing hymns from silence,
The button reflecting the brass from alter and aisle.
The other is incognito. Red as flamenco.

The key may have opened amazement's door
To a china can-can dancer's jerky steps.

The pencil stamped 'Braemar' in golden letters
Ran a red light one night in father's conscience
Scribbled a passionate letter, to a lover.

Leftovers, when we're dead outlive us all.


Dali's moustaches
Were tuned in to the stars.

Hitler's was merely a typewriter ribbon
Over the clacking steel of his words
Europe in mourning underneath his nose.

The laughing Chevalier's
Was choc-a-block with beer
Whilst Kitchener's was kitsch.

How like hedges grow the world's moustaches!
They hibernate in winter
Icicle bound and brittle.
Soup creeps up their stems
Pea green, tomato,
Even Chinese lentil
Abseils along their strands

Hercule Poirot's was stiff
As a Welsh Life Guard
But a mandarin's dangled like liquorice
Sly and Oriental
Eminently knottable, suckable,

Doused in drams
Moustaches curl and bristle
Like porcupines
Or walruses on parade

Moustaches of the world,
We salute you

Razors are sharpening a little to the left
The sinister side...

Droop, droop,
You may evolve into a beard.

The Thinker
After a conversation with Angus Calder

Never sidetrack a thinker when he's thinking.
Dante, Dvorjack, Keats may be passing through his synaptic clefts
Lighting the touchpaper to multiple Eurekas!

Interjections fling red herring
Into the works. They may trepan
The cranium, expose the cortex with its vortex of surmises,
Causing the playful Thalamus to stall
A red Mercedes sinking in the Styx.

Cerebellum, as far-ranging as Magellan, may short-circuit.
May derail conscious thought.
Ought one ever to disturb a thinker, thinking?
His skull may nurture a lily
The blueprint for a Jacuzzi
A chemical bomb
The reason behind the Kalahari's heat

Invention's a tornado in a tortoise
A galaxy of fireworks in a shoebox
Those whose discoveries might change the word forever
Titans of thinking, that invisible art
Should be tiptoed round as if they might explode.

Scotch an Wry

Scotch corpse: a cairryoot
Scotch thrift: darn it
Scotch summer: ower in a wunner
Scotch caber: Heilan fling
Scotch tenor: giein't laldy, tartan baldy

A Poem about Famous Doorknobs & their Owners
Zen Masters tell their disciples that it should be possible to meditate on the most humble of subjects, even that of a doorknob

Rasputin: a giant gleg
Gabriel's gate: a large gold tick
Cleopatra's palace: a hissing coconut
Marquis de Sade: a man o war jellyfish
Oor Willie: best B&Q plastic model number 666/a.topper.
Persephone's winter residence: a snowball
Jung's waiting room: The Bermuda Triangle
Mussolini's apartment: a marshmallow
Captain Hook: a magnet of mythical proportions
Sean Connery: a furry Hey Jimmy doorknob, made in Dundee
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein: spaghetti letter playknob
Georges Braque: a triangle
Buddha: an invisible lotus

The Alchemist

If I cud be an alchemist, wi crucible an scales
I'd makk butterflees frae powder kegs, an siller sangs frae whales

I'd takk the hoolet's pupils, fin he's flichterin on the prowl
Makkin x-ray contact lenses that I'd fashion in my bowl

I'd makk ma claes mair delicate, fae wabs the spiders knit
Nae need tae wash or iron flimsy threids made ooto spit

An I wad hae an ostriche, fa wad sweesh aroon, superior
Tae dicht the televeesion wi the plumes o its posteerior

An fowk fa harbour bees in bunnets, fa I dinna like
Wad be stung bi their ain argyments, bizzed oot in angry fyke!

If I cud be an alchemist, I'd pu a rainbow doon
An use it as a taxi cab tae flee aroon the toon

If I cud be an alchemist, wi magic wand an book
I'd makk a thoosan sherbert dabs fur polar bears tae sook!


Men are presented with books, malts, trout rods,
Cufflinks. Clocks that tell the hours with silver hands.
Women are still in Eden, Eve to a man.
Comrade Nadia Petronosky digging her 20th drain in Upper Soblensk,
Is presumably handed a sheaf of lilacs and lilies
For services to municipal plumbing.
Divas from Canberra to Crieff are drenched in bouquets
(Each after-birth is floral)
Like the blossoms flung in the path of the Nazarene's donkey.

I never touch a flower but I see my father's coffin,
Strangely shrunk and small, roofed in chrysanthemums
With one wet petal falling to the floor.


Table is the great-great nephew
Of a Canadian pine felled in the forest clearances
His siblings packed into boats, have scattered across the oceans.

Under two white coffee mugs
He muses subliminally on chipmunks
Beaver, bear and Mohawk
Nostalgically thinks of skunk

The air conditioning
Suddenly blossoms rose.


Rev. Ian MacPhail's plus fours
Cam fae a noble pedigree.
Their mither, Grizzel the yowe,
Wis kent ower ten green braes
As a swack an douce-like quine.

The discipline a the spinnin wheel an loom
They hae tholed... these scrapins o their mither.
The future o her oo has noo bin shaped
Coddlers o haly baas.


Night in the Nursing Home. Lamps burn low,
Nurse Higgins slips Miss Stapleworth into bed.

Silk pyjamas glide on withered withers
Silk knows that soon its wearer
Will meet the worm.


Dr O'Leary's brogues no longer moo
But have been known to skip at the sight of clover.

The Montrose Song

Tune: Will ye Go tae Sheriffmuir
The officer who reputedly 'died for the bonnie lass a Fyvie-o' was Major
Christopher O'Cahan, an Irish dragoon.

Hae ye seen the great Montrose, wi a rooser fur a nose
Iron teeth tae chaw his foes, steppin up sae vauntie?
Fin they fulled his christen in mug, a coo wis bairned bi a dug
A wummin tried tae kiss a slug, an ither things sae clarty.

Fin he crossed the Brig o Dee, "sign the Covenant" said he
"Or I'll set the musketry tae drub yer burgh sairly"
Black the day Montrose cam back, Irish bloodhounds at his back
Fur oor bonnie toun tae sack, in the name o glory.

This is foo an army thrives, makkin widdas ooto wives
Loadin cannon, grindin knives, ready fur the stooshie
Wad ye like a cure fur ague? Leprosy the pox or plague?
Tie a ribbon roon yer craig. Jyne Montrose's pairty.

Bold dragoons war firin shots, made frae Fyvie's chunty pots
Trampin roses an shallots roan the Howes a Fyvie
Syllabub an buttered wine, there's a sodjer a the line
Won the fecht bit nae the quine, the bonnie lass a Fyvie.

Covenanter, Cavalier, soun the drum an they'll appear
Sell yer coo, lock up yer meer, for aathing they will spulzie
Catched an caged, wi feint a care, he wrote poem an caimbed his hair
He steppit up the gibbet stair, intae the page o history.

Hung an drawn, the butcher's cairt, rowed him roan tae ilkie airt
Fur playin o the lion's pairt, roon oor noble country
Efter he'd been hoodie bait, Gweed King Charles, oar potentate
Gaithered him tae lie in state an kistit him wi glory.

(Note: John, 1st Earl of Middleton, as viceroy of Scotland in 1661, welcomed into Holyrood House the remains of his former enemy, Montrose, reassembled for a funeral in St Giles Cathedral. The Earl of Middleton is a forebear of the Middletons of Coull, Tarland, the poet's paternal kinsmen.)

King Charles I
19/11/1600, Dunfermline Castle -30/1/1649, Whitehall scaffold
Tune: Barbara Allan.
Written during a visit to Fyvie Castle, organised by the NTS

King Charles rose up thon hinmaist morn, twa sarks he chose tae weir,
Lest he should shakk, an fowk mistakk pure cauld, fur signs o fear.
They brocht his littlins tae his room, sae they micht takk their leave,
An he has pressed them tae his breist, an telt them nae tae grieve.

The anely soun, the beat in drum, the craikin o a craa,
As past the silent crowds they lead their monarch tae his faa.
Afore the scaffold happt in black, (the hooded heidsman's airt)
The boughs war bauld, the Thames rowed cauld, through Lunnon's frozen hairt.

The first step tae the scaffold bare, he stamped his fit wi rage,
For aa unfair, he saw aince mair, the mock trial o the age.
The second step King Charles took, he faltered wi his fit,
He felt the stangs o Civil War, an kent the waste o it.

The third step forrit that he gaed, his brither Scots sae quick,
Tae save their kirk, drew sword an dirk, afore his prayers they'd spikk.
The fourth step that the Monarch tuik, his een luiked hyne awa,
On war wi France, on war wi Spain, that brocht nae gain ava.

The fifth step syne, he brocht tae min', wi ile they did anoint him,
In costly goun, he wore the croon, as king they did appoint him.
The saxth step ben the scaffold stair, he welcomed hame his queen,
A fleur-de-lis brocht ower frae France, sweet maid o new saxteen.

The seventh step, nearhaun Daith's yett, his hairt wis like tae brakk,
He stude at Fyvie's castle waa, the Ythan at its back.
In Fyvie's green an pleisunt lan, the infant king wis free,
Tae rin its braw, blink-bonnie braes wi Seton's faimily.

The hinmaist step! He faced his foes, an spakk oot load an clear.
The sodjers drave the crowds awa, for fear o fit they'd hear.
An syne, thon slicht an cultured man, luiked Terror in the ee,
Tae show the leal, fu brave an weel a Stewart King could dee.

He's laid him doon, raxxed oot his airms, like Christ on Calvary,
The swingin blade a martyr made tae greet Eternity.

Journey to the Amitobha Buddha, Forres

A fox lay on the tarmac,
Back, curled like a hen's feather
Foraging paws stopped in their urgent tracks.
Dead on a full belly
Snapped like a twig by a quick car
A punch bag, thudded onto the cat's eyes.

His delicate pointed face was bright with dew.
Round a narrow bend the road stretched wide
Autumn burned in flames
Where an eagle guzzled the wine of a stilled hare,
His raptor's feathers flounced like a grandee's ruff,
His great beak skinning the fur
Like a butler removing a lady's crimson dress.

Under dripping shrubs
Through webs of trees leaves fluttered down like snow.

Journey's end. A house of stairs and hush
Where Amitobha sat, the sunset Buddha
Above two peacock plumes, framed by a window
Holding day's dead fires.
Flowers in his hand, warm candles at his feet.
The shrine-cloth coiled beneath in folds of blood.

And then, the muffled drum-beat of a tabor
The mantra like a pulse, lub-lub, lub-lub.

An owl rose like a ghost from silent woods
Opened his wings and scattered stars like jewels.

Deevilick, Deevilick

Deevilick, deevilick far hae ye been?
"Fae the birssle o Hades tae cauld Aiberdeen."
Did ye lowp in the Denburn tae frichten the fowk?
"Na, tae cweel doon ma hornies, ma hochs an ma dowp."

Dru=oak Wid=knowledge Wid (Scots)=forest.

Wirds war framed tae strikk a spark,
Tae licht man's thochts alang the dark,
Gods war ferlies fowk cud see:
Sun, and meen and fish and tree.

Roon the circle o a flame
Early hunters tied a name
Tae the speerits steerin by
Wid an walter, stane an sky.

In the dyew the ocean saw
Heiven in a wattergaw.
Shaddas raxx frae evil deen,
Like the drappin o a steen,
Deep inbye a lochan's pot
Ooto sicht, bit nae forgot.

In the mantra o the hairt,
Dreams an desolations stert,
Een an tongue an lug are gates,
Here pass mervels, myths an hates,
Ken them fur the stuff o play,
Masks an mummers fur a day.
Spittin wild cat, douce blue-bell
Fellow-traivellers like yersel.

The Dream

A dream cam teetin roon ma door,
'Can I come?' said he,
I fixed him wi a glaissy ee,
An speired him questions three.

'Oh dae ye bring a happy dream
O bonnie simmer days?
Or dae ye bring a widden-dream
O bogies, ghaists, an waes?
Or dae ye bring a prophecy
Tae tell o roads I'll rin?
Oh tell me truly, chappin dream
Afore I let ye in!'

Bleeding Angels

Today, a rainbow leaked.
The falling rain was radiant!
Bright drops of Angels' blood.

The Worry

A Worry the size of a midgie or flee,
Creepit inno the bosie o Teenie McGee.
It grew through the nicht big's a were-wolf sae furry,
Nae twa winks o sleep could she get for the Worry.

Next mornin, at brakkfaist, she drew up a cheer,
An saw, tae her horror, the Worry sat there.
It treetled ahin her fin she wauked tae class,
Sae big noo, the teacher could hardly win past.

Fariver she gaed it wid lowp like a troot,
Frae bus stop tae hame blottin aa the warld oot!
She'd staun in the street
'I've a Worry!' she'd yell.
'Be quate' fowk roared back
'We've got Worries wirsel!'

Sae she gaed tae her granny, an grat on her lap.
(The Worry cam tae, big's an elephant's bap).
Granny tuik oot her glaisses, the Worry tae see,
Bit noo Teenie'd shared it, the Worry grew wee.
It shrank an it shrank till it dwinnlit awa
A Worry, eence shared's nae a Worry ava!

Poem Train

"The next poem coming is due to stop at..."
Being a poet is just like being a station
If one is due, the tracks begin to tremble.

'Please note the 8.09
Will be stopping at Eddie Morgan up the line.'

My pen stays poised
To catch one when it comes
Out of the mist, on metal-powered grooves.

Poem Factory

When Daniel Vaughan was bored one day, he didn't moan, instead
He made a little poem about the things inside his head.
It was a friendly little poem. He grew to love it, though
He thought perhaps it needed friends... The poems began to grow.
And some poems skipped, and others danced, and some lay down and mused,
And some were short, and some were long and terribly confused.

So Daniel's never lonely, for they walk with him, you see
Whole squads of little prancing poems from his poem factory.
And if he smiles at nothing, or a tear shines in his eye
Don't take the matter personally... A poem is passing by!

Crunch Time

Inspired by the painting Lips 2000: Jeff Koons

Small pink craters,
Dew collectors
Quiver like fleshy anemones.
Tongue's antennae root around
In their oozing anchorage
Drooling over a lush of lozenges
Tingling under a shrapnel of grapefruit.

Once under the pearly gates
A pert young peach
Is mauled, keelhauled.
The world is liquified,
Ground down to size
To fuel the nitty-gritty of the day.

Cat-Scan: A Brain's Soliloquy

I am dreaming on top of my stem
I am a nest for vampires and felines
With exquisite banshee wails.
I can reach warp factor ten.
Zeitgeist and poltergeist dwell
In feisty old me.
I am Baroque and Zen

My carotid arteries sip
Strawberry-coloured food,
For Thought is carnivorous, sweety-pie
Without it,
Would shrivel away and die.

Fresh dawns bring new horizons to my cerebellum
Intriguing enough to be charted by Magellan.

Behind my lashes, behind my dewy peepers
Words interweave like rustling jungle creepers.

Sleep, has the final word
Time's metronome that ticks in the spinal cord.

My neurons are crackling: message coming through
From Mr Joyce beamed from the Blarney stone:

Welcome, 0 Life!
I go to encounter for the millionth time
The reality of experience
And to forge in the smithy of my soul
The uncreated conscience of my race.

This work is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

The SCOTS Project and the University of Glasgow do not necessarily endorse, support or recommend the views expressed in this document.


Cite this Document

APA Style:

Queerie-Orrals. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 25 July 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Queerie-Orrals." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 25 July 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Queerie-Orrals," accessed 25 July 2024,

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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 516



Text audience

General public
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Word count 4073

Text medium


Text publication details

Publisher Severin Books
Publication year 2003
Place of publication Aberdeen

Text type

Other Collection of poems


Author details

Author id 112
Forenames Sheena
Surname Blackhall
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 16
Upbringing/religious beliefs Brought up Protestant, now Buddhist
Occupation Writer and supply teacher
Place of birth Aberdeen
Region of birth Aberdeen
Birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Aberdeen
Region of residence Aberdeen
Residence CSD dialect area Abd
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Manager of Deeside Omnibus Service
Father's place of birth Aboyne
Father's region of birth Aberdeen
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Private Secretary
Mother's place of birth Aberdeen
Mother's region of birth Aberdeen
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gaelic; Scottish Gaelic Yes Yes Yes Yes Elementary. Gaelic choir. Poetry.
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes