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


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 1999, used by permission of the author and Macmillan Publishers.

Kathleen Jamie in the Poetry Store

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