'Mr and Mrs Scotland Are Dead' concerns things I found on a local dump - where I shouldn't have been because one's not allowed to play on the dump but I'm a grown-up woman and I can go there if I want. I found a lot of personal effects and of course I couldn't resist but look at them, and there were letters, cards and what have you - and they were addressed to "Mr and Mrs Scotland" and I thought, "Thank you God." This is a sort of state of the nation poem if you like.

Mr and Mrs Scotland Are Dead

On the civic amenity landfill site,
the coup, the dump beyond the cemetery
and the 30-mile-an-hour sign, her stiff
old ladies’ bag, open mouthed, spew
postcards sent from small Scots towns
in 1960: Peebles, Largs, the rock-gardens
of Carnoustie, tinted in the dirt.
Mr and Mrs Scotland, here is the hand you were dealt:
fair but cool, showery but nevertheless,
Jean asks kindly; the lovely scenery;
in careful school-room script –
The Beltane Queen was crowned today.
But Mr and Mrs Scotland are dead.
Couldn’t he have burned them? Released
in a grey curl of smoke
this pattern for a cable knit? Or this:
tossed between a toppled fridge
and sweet-stinking anorak: Dictionary for Mothers
M:- Milk, the woman who worries…;
And here, Mr Scotland’s John Bull Puncture Repair Kit;
those days when he knew intimately
the thin roads of his country, hedgerows
hanged with small black brambles’ hearts;
and here, for God’s sake, his last few joiners’ tools,
SCOTLAND, SCOTLAND, stamped on their tired handles.

Do we take them? Before the bulldozer comes
to make more room, to shove aside
his shaving brush, her button tin.
Do we save this toolbox, these old-fashioned views
addressed after all, to Mr and Mrs Scotland?
Should we reach and take them? And then?
Forget them, till that person enters
our silent house, begins to open
to the light our kitchen drawers,
and performs for us this perfunctory rite:
the sweeping up, the turning out.

from Mr and Mrs Scotland Are Dead: Poems 1986-1994 (Bloodaxe, 2002), copyright Kathleen Jamie 2002, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

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