Metamorphosis TWO

Posted on 1st May, 2019



TRANSFORMATION : Susan Cartwright Smith


I held you in my arms –

my baby girl.

And in that instant dreamt

of weddings,

Heart, broken by a man,

Your own joy holding future babies

of your own.

But as my ends betray, I am not the 

conditioning kind.

When you cut through your skin, 

was it to see the real you beneath?

Slicing through the chrysalis

unravelling the silken story of your previous existence.

Your dampened wings became a different creature

flying high.

A young man grows in your place. He wears your face.

But has been stitched together differently.

And looking at my son, now, different name, and different contours,

I wonder 

what I did 

which made you not quite who you were,

who you were meant to be.

Was it me who made the journey different? Made you spurn the map

And travel down the overgrown path. I hold my second son, 

and wonder

Will he take a different path? Do I produce just boys?


Or just mistakes…



But you are now rubbed out and drawn anew – 

My primitive daubing covered over by your masterpiece.

The cave painting, rendered by Picasso, smudged and smoothed

Presented fresh by Holbein.


A braver hand than mine, touching up, finishing off.

What I see is perfect, 


as it was before.


But this is YOU. Who you are. Who you need to be.

And I am full of love for you, daughter no more.



My son.



Doll : Susan Cartwright Smith





Whistling Gypsy : Maggie Graham


The whistling gypsy is over the hill. Never mind, she is fine Unshod, she trips through clover, silvered, tousled tresses blowing in the wind. Sometimes she sits, remembering frolics in fields with bonny boys. Shirtless, bellbottomed blues, going up the country with Bobby McGee. Shoeless, clueless, with music in their souls, lust in their eyes. Fuck me up, Buttercup. 


Sometimes she sighs. 


She tends her fire, her dog, her six brown hens, her herbs, picks sprigs of Thyme to scent her sheets.  She rides her bike to the shop, buys, coffee, butter, honey, two figs, brown rolls, gin for high nights, wine for holy nights. Home, she listens to Schubert with the window open, drink by her side. She is bent but not broken  She writes poetry, torn with tenderness, touched by fury. Listen to her whistle, round midnight, for her dog. 


Come merry morning she is up with the Linnet, Tulip fresh. She tends her brood, brews nettle infusion. The post brings joy: seeds to sow: peppery rocket, ginger mint, lemon thyme. Other herbs she picks from the hedgerows: chickweed, elder, nettle, yellow dock, broom. Work done, she slings her tote over her shoulder, whistles for her dog. They go down the hill to her chosen picnic spot. Sitting on her jumper, she enjoys her buttered bun, boiled egg, coffee from her thermos, one perfect fig. Replete, she rests on her pillow of moss, eyes closed to the sun, listening to birdsong, whirr of wings, thrum of bees. She’s found somewhere to stretch her bones. Rising, she goes to dip her toes in the cold river. This is where she worships, the forever splendour, meeting with trees in the very rich hours. The dog snuffles, sniffs, pretending to hunt. She holds him to her, tells him he’s her fierce hound.


Returning home, she whistling, kicking stones, he sniffle snuffling. In her house she does some stuff: sketches, poems, songs, bringing forth jewels hidden within. She sips wine, stirs Risotto. Come twilight time, sitting by her open window, she is serene.   Bedtime, she keeps the blind up, communes with the moon. 


She used to live in the city. But the commute to work got too much, weekends were spent shut in, seeing nobody. The night time streets frightened her. When her midlife crisis got too much she retired, seeking the comfort of stillness. She found it here.


Drifting, she wonders. The guy she once wed, her forever love , who took to hurling insults in her direction, cutting her to the core, till the ego took flight but not before he kicked the kitchen door off its hinges, swept dishes off the shelves.  Where’d he go? 


Her little children, she hefted on her hip, chubby little legs kicking. Slumber gently, goodnight. I love you too bits. Well, I love you three bits, four bits, five bits. Lift me up, swing me high. Sing my sweetie song. Shoo shoo shoo shoo shoo, shoo shoo shoo shoo shoo shoo sweetie town. Her little singing girl, her little bouncing boy. Her golden  shillings.  Where’d they go? Gone to persons, every one. She thinks, nevermore will I hold wee ones to me.


They keep in touch, if only to tell her how to live her life. She listens, then goes to dig in the dirt, whistling the blues. Content to grow food, flowers, holes in her tights.


Her sisters must be somewhere. Her mother, like no other in their wee town.  Widowed young, highly strung, prone to misery, doctored with whisky. Sipping, slipping from loss to lost. Weeping, slurring from morning to midnight. No comfort for the shivering, sorrowful sisters. In time they left, returning only to see their mother die. Guilt never dies.


She burns Sweet Cicely, Myrtle, Rue, smudges her rooms, collects herself from corners.


Her friends come by. 

June brings cherries, juicy, sweet. She sits on the floor. June is lithe.

 Siri brings curry, scented rice, oils for sore joints. Siri lightens her life. 

Ellie glimmers, sings Joni songs, brings cold Reisling,  

Cheryl brings her boyfriend who won’t be left behind. They listen, bored to his stories, meet in town some other time.

Don mends her fences. They sit on her doorstep, drinking the beers he brought. Don tells her he likes her smile. She likes his eyes, his lips but never tells him.


She misses longing, desire, glimpse, the merest touch, lightest brush of fingers,. Not forever love, just holding, being held, tightly, tenderly, sometimes roughly. Serious hunger, sweetest surrender.


Some nights she sleeps with monsters. Men with torches, witch hunting her. She burns, smoke chokes her. She jumps clutching children. There is no fire. On her quilt, her dog sleeps on. Unnerved, she rises, looks to the skies: meteors, comets till birdsong lightens her spirit. Welcome morning. 


She misses her religion. Devotion, glory be. Confession, contrition, repentance, forgiveness so simple. Holy Communion, the host stuck to the roof of her mouth. Smells, bells, vestments, hymn-singing.  Holy queen, our life, our sweetness, our hope. mother of mercy. Fruit of thy womb, the lord is with you. Send up our sighs. Thine eyes of mercy. O clement, O loving, O sweet. Sign of the cross. She tried it once more, fell to her knees felt silly, went giggling up to bed, discomfiting the dog. 


The whistling gypsy is over the hill, popping pills.  Ibroprufen. Double strength. Mixed with gin, the very thing. Hip gone, knee gone, shoulder gone. Girl gone. She misses her menses, long gone. The urgent twinge, flood of her blood.  Sign of the feminine, of youth. 


Every blue moon, most often in winter, she is drunk by dusk. Two lonesome bottles down, she puts on sweet, soul music; keep on loving me songs. She whirls, twists, bops till she drops. Then moved to sobs by memories, loss, she crumples. The sun still comes up, finds her on the doorstep with good coffee. Nobody’s business but her own.  


She is in need of herself. With gentle work she will recover. Sitting in her kitchen with her friend from round the bend, new projects begin. They’ll creosote her shed, hold soirees in September, brew elderflower wine, go to the shore, pick stones, shells for her rockery. Lit from within, she glows. 


She goes to town, lingers in thrift shops, procures objects for her home, pretty pitchers, bonny bowls, embroidered pillowslips, wooden or silver spoons. Other women’s domestic troves delight her.


Overwintering indoors, she busies herself, jots lines of poetry in notebooks, writes lists of  seeds to buy for Spring.  She sews quilts from old cotton frocks, crochets cushion covers or coverlets, knits cowls, mittens in jewel colours to give to friends.  She cooks for Yule: butter, eggs flour, mixed fruit, spices stirred, fed with rum, sweet-smelling concoctions scenting the home she festoons with holly boughs, ivy, mistletoe. Votives  light her rooms while she stirs, sips to yuletide music. 


Her son visits, unexpectedly, bringing gifts of books, truffles, excellent whisky. They converse by the fireside, stroll through the forest. She points out frosted lichen, petrified ferns. They drop into the pub. Her friends like him.  She is proud. Filled with bonhomie, they stroll home, where  he pours wine into risotto, stirring, stirring, refreshes her drink stokes the fire, turns the music low, solicitous of her comfort. They sit up till the wee hours. He is off the next morning, promises to phone when he gets home. The house is quiet. His sister phoned, sent vouchers she will spend on gin. She never expected more, but still, she’d hoped. 


She loses herself in beloved books: To The lighthouse, Wuthering Heights, The Golden Notebook, The Pursuit Of Love. She devours new volumes of poetry, letters, memoirs; gifts from her son. 

Music fills her rooms: Mendelssohn, Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Stevie Wonder, Bessie Smith, Miles  Joni, Dusty, Billie, Emmy Lou.






Spring finds her outdoors once more, weeding, tilling soil, sowing. Working with her dog by her side. Flowering snowdrops, crocuses, bluebells, scented herbs in her plot, everything greening, growing, budding, blossoming. Sure-footedly she goes up the hill, visits the trees, listening to the chink of the wren, looks out for the robin, goes down to dip her feet in the icy burn. She sees the heron, sill sentinel. Indoors she hums, mumbles, mutters, sings lines from forgotten songs. 


She is eloquent, she is reticent. She is subtle, she is shrill. She is merry, she is mourning. She is tender, she is torn. She is bruised but not broken. She is history, she is home. She is kin, she is kind. She is swift, she is slow. She is sore, she is sure. She is blue, she is beloved. She is forgotten, she is free. 





The whistling gypsy is over the hill. 

Look with love on her.

She is fine. 





Day One 



Andrew Foley  - illustrator based in Scotland 's Southern Uplands



by Jean Edmiston


After the glass mountain --


Bear woke from a long sleep, some say a sleep of seven hundred years and she was spirit bear.

She looked out of her cave deep under the ice glass mountain, and everything was changing.


She saw still the marks where the woman with iron boots had climbed up, up and far.

Bear had watched the woman from her dreams deep in the ice, watched her through the blue ice glass that moved and moved.

She was strong that woman - working beside the blacksmith for seven years.


The bear dreamed again for a moment.


What a story that would have been, the woman and the blacksmith, fire and iron, and their cubs, many cubs looking after the forest, guarding the mountain.

‘I don’t know where she went or what became of her, but a whisper trapped in the ice said she found her own true love and lived happily ever after.


I do not know. But the blacksmith grieved for her - oh how he grieved that blacksmith. His cries of despair woke me from my sleep.


The fire in the forge was cold now, and the blacksmith turned his back on the forest and the mountain and died. I gathered his bones and the iron. I kept them close whilst I slept.’


Bear shook away the memories and the dreams and opened her eyes.


Bear came out of the cave and looked up, the ice glass mountain was melting, the forest was dying.


Bear broke off a piece of the ice glass, inside it she could see other spirit creatures sleeping as she had done. She swallowed the ice and drank the melt water and the creatures. Now they were safe inside her.


She pulled up the forest and wrapped it round her like a cloak.


She pulled down a piece of the sky and placed it on her head like a crown. She wore a belt of bones threaded on iron around her waist



Bear walked away from the dying forest, the melting ice glass mountain. She had to hurry now to find a new place where the creatures inside her could be free and where the forest could grow.


She passed the ruined castle where the woman and her black bull had lived out their lives. No dreams here. The land was green, there were walls and fences, no place for a bear and a forest, and on and on she walked, high into the hills.


Now here on the highest place where there were only hares and lapwings, the song of the curlew, the bear laid down to rest.

She opened her mouth, breathed out and the creatures inside her emerged.        


The forest cloak settled and grew, spreading quickly and the creatures found their homes.

The sky over them was filled with ancient stars.

The blacksmith and the bear woman built a cabin, and their cubs cared for the land and the forest.

The spirit bear smiled in her sleep, deep under the ground, dreaming again.
  Jean and Susie Howie will be telling stories and sharing experiences gathered over the years through Wigtown Festival's 'Give Voice' project at Wigtown's Spring Book Weekend - 4th May - 2.00 -3.00 pm in The Print Room. Free but booking essential. 




Embers Kelly Davis


The burning embers lying in a fire

Must all transmute to ash to feed the flame.

So humble bricks pile up to build a spire.

If no one loses, no one wins the game.

In life is death, the ghost within the child.

The mirror does not lie; the years will pass,

Through summers warm, and winters chill and wild,

Till all that is becomes no more than grass.

You may believe you are a special case,

The rules of time do not apply to you.

That might seem true when youth glows in your face

But later on you’ll find you’re in a queue.

For what, you ask? One hopes, a peaceful death,

And – say it soft – an easy final breath.





















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