John Bolland’s poetry and short fiction in Scots and English has been widely published in magazines and anthologies including The Interpreter's House, Northwords Now, The London Magazine and Pushing Out the Boat. His first collection – Fallen Stock – was published by Red Squirrel Press and launched at StAnza in 2019. In 2018 he was privileged to participate in the Theoartistry Poet scheme jointly sponsored by StAnza and ITIA. He is currently working a new collection and spoken-word show – Pilbroch – interweaving themes of the current climate emergency with the disaster which unfolded the North Sea oil platform Piper Alpha in 1988.
So much for the stag.
Who is she – coming from the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of a merchant? Song of Songs 3.6
1 Last night we should have be a bacchanal, seeking the fruit before the flower, high, heelster-gowdie on space cakes, psilocybin, metaphors. Like foxes run berserk, the girls along the banks of those canals proffered the business-as-usual – lace and lash. We all went well-protected and dead hard. But He was having none of it, immune to innuendo, scribbling empty vows on sodden beer mats. Frantic. Shape-shifting. 2 I spill my wine and watch it pool like blood upon the table top, coagulating into rubies spaced by the stillness of that fatal process – water to wine to blood to stone - the must, the ripening and see amongst this tinsel righteousness, the irresponsibility of things, the simple emptiness of letting go. 3 His i-phone ringing out (the stupid cunt), we rallied back at the Liedesplein, those of us still upright in the morning damp, abiding on espresso and red bull. We feared he was face down in a canal or OD-d in a stairwell near the Rembrandthuis or shacked up with some cabin-girl. The cunt was not supposed to take this business seriously – it’s all just a charade we’re acting out the meantime knowing that we all need love. But should still check the price tag on the goods. 4 Let’s disambiguate. I bade Benaiah drag that boy out of the sanctuary. We bled him like a goat. (Shalom). Yet here I’m putting on a show jangling with good intentions, stinking of Old Spice. I know Her perfumes mask dead meat and menstrual blood. She’s one-big-ask and dolled up like an angel - but She’s true. Her ears comb every nuance from the breeze. The soft mouth oozes honey. The morning dogs are barking. My hair is wet with dew. 5 He thought, by then, he’d thrown off our pursuit. A plastic bag from HEMA slowly sank where two swans floated on the Prinzengraacht. They preened their Teflon-feathered purity above the needles, prophylactics, douts and sediment. Beyond him, in a cabin-door, a maid was mopping at a carpet-stain. Heads aching, bellies sour, (which is to say incarnate and alive) we havered after him into Her wintry promise.
From Fallen Stock (Red Squirrel Press, 2019)