Poem for December

The Life Breath Song

by The People of Scotland, curated by Makar Kathleen Jamie

The leaves are drying, the breeze whispers of days and nights,
the life-breath songs of our silver birch trees.

The river shines a mirror;
seeds carried on the air land on singing rivers,
rivers carry mountains to the sea.

Let’s cherish the crash of waves,
feel wild. Herring gull clarity, bonxie tenacity!
Cumamaid na speuran gorm
Let’s keep the blue sky

Limpet shells and seaweed.

Let’s go diving and find all the beautiful marine creatures down there.

Today the toxic foam erodes the sand,
a north-easterly dimples the waves.

Our hands are stained purple –
we are gathering brambles.

Hairst dreeps wi berries, brambles, blaeberries,
hips an haws, elderberries, roddens.
Rose-hips open my heart.

Look up to the hills, bog cotton, purple heather!
Lapwings, craggy unforgiving outcrops.
The grouse stands in the heather.

Saft rain smoors the hale green o the sycamore
aneath the windae, settles
simmer stour.

Let’s save the animals getting hurt in the forests.
Let’s go to the woods to pick up some litter,
kick colourful leaves in piles.

A purple day,
low glowing unsetting sun,
our eyes on the summit.

The wild clover, glistening grass:
I will heed their whispered warning,
the green beetle with its shield on its back.

Cygnet feathers linger, long after the canal swan has grown.
Today I saw a fox outside my window, brushed tail.

Today we breathe deeply and sing
the life-breath songs.


About this poem –
Toward a nature poem, written by the people of Scotland. Curated and arranged by Makar Kathleen Jamie.
Kathleen Jamie recently wrote
‘As Scotland’s new Makar my contribution to COP26 was to arrange for a People’s Nature Poem. I asked the Scottish public to send in just one line each (we got c1000!) and I shaped and arranged them. Working with the Scottish Poetry Library we had 3 short Filmpoems made, using some of the lines. I think they’re lovely and maybe readers will too?’ 

Featured image credit: Scottish Poetry Library