Kathleen Jamie

Image by Alan Young

Poem introduction

Before my boy was born - I didn't know it was a boy obviously - but before this child was born I was frightened that I might not like this child who was going to come and live with us. I think this is a thing a lot of expectant mothers fear but you're not allowed to say it. And I thought this person's going to come and live with us for, maybe, twenty years and what if we just don't like each other? But I live by the Tay which has huge reed beds so I thought well if the worst comes to the worst I can always make a wee basket which of course I didn't. Instead I wrote this poem called 'The Tay Moses'.

The Tay Moses

The Tay Moses

What can I fashion
for you but a woven
creel of river-
rashes, a golden
oriole's nest, my gift
wrought from the Firth -

and choose my tide: either
the flow, when, watertight
you'll drift to the uplands -
my favourite hills, held safe
in eddies, where salmon, wisdom
and guts withered in spawn,
rest between moves - that
slither of body as you were born -

or the ebb, when the water
will birl you to snag
on reeds, the river-
pilot leaning over the side:
'Name o God!' and you'll change hands:
tractor-man, grieve, farm-wife
who takes you into her
competent arms

even as I drive, slamming
the car's gears,
spitting gravel on tracks
down between berry-fields,
engine still racing, the door wide
as I run toward her, crying
LEAVE HIM! Please,
it's okay, he's mine.

from Jizzen (Picador, 1999), copyright © Kathleen Jamie 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher.


Kathleen Jamie

Kathleen Jamie Reading her own poems

1View from the Cliffs

2The Leaving of an Island

3Black Spiders

4Peter the Rock

5Julian of Norwich

6The Way We Live

7From <i>The Autonomous Region</i>

8The Queen of Sheba

9Child with Pillar Box and Bin Bags

10Wee Wifey

11Perfect Day

12Mr and Mrs Scotland Are Dead



15Hand Relief

16Swallows and Swifts

17The Sea-house


19Skeins o Geese

20From Ultrasound: Ultrasound, Thaw, Bairnsang, Prayer

21The Tay Moses

22Crossing the Loch

23The Graduates

24Mrs McKellar, her martyrdom




28The Well at the Broch of Gurness

29St Bride's




33The hill-track (Frogs)

34The Wishing Tree

Books by Kathleen Jamie