About the Poem
Taken from the book
About the poet
From Scots dialect to Frank O’Hara and the New York School, from the candidly personal to...
When I opened my window and reached for the yoghurt colling on the outside ledge, it had gone. All that remained was a single Scottish word bewildered by the Paris winter frost and the lights of its riverbank motorways. What can dustie-fute have to say to a night like this? How can it dangle on its hyphen down into the rue Geoffro L'Ansier where Danton stayed on the eve of revolution? How can it tame this strangeness for me or change me into the cupolas and flagstones I so desire yet still notice every time I walk among them? Does the 'auld alliance' of words and things stand a chance among the traffic and pimps in the Publicis Saint-Germain? For its not as if dustie-fute were my familiar. I could easily confuse dustie-fute with elfmill which is the sound made by a worm in the timber of a house, supposed by the vulgar to be preternatural. These words are as foreign as the city they have parachuted into, dead words slipping on the sill of a living metropolis. They are extremes that touch like dangerous wires and the only hope for them, for us, is the space they inhabit, a room veering between dilettantism and dynamite. Old Scots words, big French city and in between absymal me: ane merchand or creamer, quha hes no certain dwelling place, quhair the dust may be dicht fra hes feete or schone. Dustie-fute, a stranger, equivalent to fairandman, at a loss in the empty of soul of his ancestors' beautiful langage and in the soulless city of his compeers living the 21st century now and scoffinf at his medieval wares. Yet here, precisely here, is their rendez-vous and triumphantly, stuffed down his sock, an oblique sense, the dustie-fute of 'revelry', the acrobat, the juggler who accompanies the toe-belled jongleur with his merchant's comic fairground face. He reaches deep into his base latinity, into his pede-pulverosi and French descendants pull our their own pieds poudreux. Dustie-fute remembers previous lives amid the plate glass of Les Halles. They magnify his motley, his midi-oranges, his hawker lyrics and for a second Beaubourg words graze Scottish glass then glance apart. In this revelry differences copulate, become more visible and bearable and, stranger than the words or the city I inhabit, I reach for my yoghurt and find it there.
from Paris-Forfar (Polygon, 1994), © David Kinloch 1994, used by permission of the author.
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