The Heart of the Run, Maggie Mackay
Picaroon Poetry, 2018 £5.99
Welcoming the ghosts
This debut pamphlet invokes both the living and the dead, as well as other spooky presences and dreams. But it’s done in such a way that other-world suggestions enrich and enhance the measure of everyday.
‘The Glaistig’ is a natural spirit (perhaps half-woman half-goat) welcomed into a wonderfully evocative twilight, with ‘a pool of milk’ set out to attract her:
Dragonflies and moths
hover on her heartbeat. Deer dart into the ether,
a distant fiddler strums a jig through the indigo.
The dead persist in the living: in ‘Gardener Grafting’ ‘Gran lives on in the bairn’, and little Fern in ‘Paisley Pattern’ is a ‘restless redhead like her Dad’.
One sister (in the poem titled ‘this place is everything but dull) is lost, and two sisters remain. They ‘shiver at her earthly ghost call’, united in their loss. But then a pregnancy, a baby to look forward to, reinforces the loving connections:
One thread frays. I weave a stronger one.
In ‘Fitch’, the poet’s late mother re-appears as a polecat, first in a dusty painting, and suddenly then she’s out of the painting and roaming the house: ‘She has returned to seek out / her ghost husband’ (how interesting the closeness between ‘fitch’ and ‘fetch’ in the ghostly meaning of the word).
In this same poem, the poet calls in the full range of sensual references: the visual ‘fur mask’; the texture of the silkscreen print ‘soft as her starlit complexion’; the scent (‘Musk charges the room’); and the last line invokes both sound and flavour:
I rise to the taste of the polecat’s low mewling to her mate.
In ‘My Father as a Zephyr’, the poet’s father reappears as the gentlest of breezes:
His wind-song dances on fiddle strings, sotto.
The west wind restores dear ones
with a tease, a coorie-in, a purr.
Reading this collection is a rich experience, sensuous and emotive, and heartening too.
Loved ones are lost but they never really go. Here they’re still around, reassuring and strengthening.