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  • Richie McCaffrey: Taxidermy

    Richie McCaffrey


    Ballast Flint

    They often took people from these shores,

    pariahs of the law or kirk. Sent them down

    into the holds of ships with flint as ballast,

    mined locally as plentiful useless weight.


    The nodules looked like bone joints, broke

    open to dark quartz, the black iris of a Sphinx,

    unknowable and inscrutable. The dud cargo

    was often dumped by the salt-chapped rim

    of other seas where it did not naturally occur.

    It’s still there today, mostly, but some sparked

    great fires, sharpened to double-edged blade,

    a forgotten clan knapping their arms in the swash.





    My late aunt spent much of her spare time

    knitting antimacassars for every armchair

    and settee in each of our houses.

    It was a skill she had learned on sufferance

    as a young girl but found it essential later

    when she withdrew to the same high-back.

    Then one day she simply stopped talking,

    refused to speak to anyone. It was strange

    to see her sit, an antimacassar behind

    her head like a frilly thought bubble,

    an empty white halo. A barometer hung

    beside her front-door, a broken heirloom


    that always predicted rain and no change

    and her prized Worcester ballerinas 

    seemed to want to break from their plinths. 





    In the harbour bar, dead birds of prey perch

    in the memory slips between whisky bottles,

    ready to swoop, pluck out the pickled-onion eyes

    of drunk short-sleeved men at the pool-table.


    There is an ‘infinity jukebox’ in the corner

    and someone has paid fifty pence to hear

    Big Country’s Wonderland soar above

    the workaday fug of if only, but not quite.

    Later on a brash pop pubescent sings

    about facing a speeding train, holding

    a grenade, or taking a bullet for a girl,

    the birds stare down blankly the guns of love.





    I used to drink

    with some characters,

    I say drink but drown

    would be better.


    Professional types,

    all suited and booted

    often came in to hit

    the Stella and the deck.


    They’d loosen their fat

    loud-silk kipper ties

    like men trying to escape

    a sartorial noose.

    One said whenever

    he cheated on his wife

    he drove to the carwash,

    thought of jumping out.

    Another fell guttered

    in a patch of nettles

    while meandering home

    and felt he deserved it.

    A toast to every draught,

    we would drink

    to each other’s health

    and never our own.


    The Cairn


    I rambled up Dumyat

    one time drunk

    and raging

    at the world

    near the top

    the path strewn

    with mica scree,

    little chisellings

    of ice and thaw

    the air hit

    my blood

    like Perrier water

    I came down,

    seeing the lie

    of land from

    every angle


    like chips


    from shoulders

    at the cairn of reason.





    Richie McCaffery was born 1986. His poems have been accepted by The Rialto, Stand, Magma, Agenda & Iota. He is in Cromarty as an auxiliary writer-in-residence in the lead up to the Thomas Urquhart conference. His first pamphlet is due out in 2012 from HappenStance Press.

    One Response to “Richie McCaffrey: Taxidermy”
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    1. […] down – there is a bareness to his work that comes from openness and honesty.  Read his work here and […]

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