Beth McDonough’s work connects strongly with place, particularly the Tay, where she swims year round and forages nearby. Her poetry is published in Gutter, Stand, Magma and elsewhere. She reviews at DURA. Handfast (2016, with Ruth Aylett) and investigates experiences of autism and dementia. Her first pamphlet, Lamping for Pickled Fish, was published in September 2019 by 4Word Books.
Halfway up the Devil’s Staircase
Already, I’d assumed we’d meet.
In fact, I’d surmised, on Rannoch’s slog,
you might hide behind that grander herdsman.
Or else you’d loom ahead. Huge.
Well, large. Without largesse.
In mist, perhaps you’d tap my wrist?
Maybe you’d jump out at the summit.
But, even among these red rolling stones,
that’s never how it goes.
There! Only a short fall downhill:
a sure-toed man, below our quartet.
Capricious in clefts, nimble by burns.
So very strange, and thinly lithe.
And it is a long way from Tipperaray.
From anywhere, I suppose. Did you know?
Mostly it’s miles from our kitchens and kids.
We four. All much older than your Mum.
Did you stutter in German or Dutch?
All I saw was your feral-goat fear,
as you twitched today’s life in your pack
and ran and ran, ran to any glen, any lochan
far from the awful torment
of middle-aged singing women.
Let me introduce myself, carrying light,
in heightened Lochaber’s freed air.
© 2020 Beth McDonough