Poem for September

The Wishing Tree

I stand neither in the wilderness
nor fairyland

but in the fold
of a green hill

the tilt from one parish
into another.

To look at me
through a smirr of rain

is to taste the iron
in your own blood

because I hoard
the common currency

of longing: each wish
each secret assignation.

My limbs lift, scabbed
with greenish coins

I draw into my slow wood
fleur-de-lys, the enthroned Brittania.

Behind me, the land
reaches toward the Atlantic.

And though I’m poisoned
choking on the small change

of human hope,
daily beaten into me

look: I am still alive –
in fact, in bud.

By Kathleen Jamie, from The Tree House (Picador, 2004).

Kathleen Jamie is a poet, essayist and editor, and last month was appointed Scotland’s next Makar. Raised in Currie, near Edinburgh, she studied philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, publishing her first poems as an undergraduate. Her writing is rooted in Scottish landscape and culture, and ranges through travel, women’s issues, archaeology and visual art. She writes in English and occasionally in Scots.

Speaking to The National newspaper on becoming Scotland’s Makar, the country’s ‘national poet’, Jamie said:

It’s an honour but also a job, with at least three tasks. The post is about encouraging reading and writing poetry throughout the land. Secondly, it’s about providing new poems, a few every year, to mark national events. The forthcoming opening of Parliament is one such event. Another is COP26 in November, which will concentrate minds on the climate emergency. Poets have always been at the forefront of thought about the natural world, it would be brilliant to have a poetry presence there. Thirdly, I think the role has international value too, because poets keep open cultural connections with other countries and languages. Communication and translation is integral to poetry.