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Duncan Gillies MacLaurin

Duncan Gillies MacLaurin is a Scottish poet who was born in Glasgow in 1962. He studied Classics at Oxford, left without a degree, and spent two years busking in the streets of Europe. He met a Danish writer, Ann Bilde, in Italy in 1986 and went to live in Denmark, where he teaches English and Latin. His collection of 51 sonnets, I Sing the Sonnet (2017), is online at Snakeskin. He blogs here. His experiences as an ex-pat poet are described in the first issue of the e-zine, The Chimaera.

On Sören Jessen’s Sand

Around thee shall glisten the loveliest amber
  That ever the sorrowing sea-bird hath wept.
         – Thomas Moore, Fire Worshippers

The tide is low, no wind to blow
   the Wadden Sea inland;
and it is rare that fire and air
   embrace upon the strand
   where you and I now stand,
   together, hand in hand,
   on Sören Jessen’s Sand.
The sea, ablaze before the haze,
   unfolds a silken dream;
he weaves the weft from right and left,
   approaching his extreme,
   and, running out of steam,
   he sews a perfect seam.
   And now the amber beam

the sun displays to meet our gaze
   on water starts to tread.
Two seagulls hinge about the fringe
   of tears their forebears shed.
   The amber light turns red,
   the grey with violet spread,
   and—every ray now dead—

a phantom boat appears, afloat
   behind the banks of mist.
The waves begin to tiptoe in;
   and here’s the final twist.
   We see that they have kissed
   an amber amethyst
   the size of someone’s fist.

Originally published in Quantum Leap

On the Quiet

When the sky turns pale and strong,
that’s when Venus comes along;
and the new moon finds his perch
in the arms of a silver birch,
   on the quiet.

Black geese swim overhead,
say their prayers, and so to bed;
and the passion of their quest
puts the doubt in my mind at rest,
   on the quiet.

Now my sweetheart looks at me;
and she smiles so tenderly;
and I know she’s thinking of
the miracle of our love,
   on the quiet.

Originally published in Candelabrum

Horror Vacui

For all its beauty, Venice has been cursed.
The shades of Shylock and von Aschenbach
lurk behind closed doors. Soon after dark
Sebastian Flyte inspires a giant thirst
on balconies above the Grand Canal,
where discontented sons of millionaires
console each other, high on Baudelaire’s
philosophy of life, Les Fleurs du mal.
Come Carnival they’ll all be sporting masks,
assuming alter egos by the score.
They’ll carry on the way they did before
but now feel free to flaunt their pocket flasks.
A lethal dose elicits no surprise.
Each gondolier is Charon in disguise.

Originally published in The Shit Creek Review

Just Rain

for Maz

You died two months ago, a coastal-town
recluse. This bloody rain’s now making sense.
For you were married to the present tense
and what it brought. In daily life you’d frown
on wilful arrogance. You put it down
to carelessness—a cardinal offence,
you thought—and so you started to dispense
poetic justice. Margaret, here’s your crown.
You celebrated life, ignored taboo,
implored the world at large to do so too,
adored wild animals, abhorred the zoo,
championed natural habitats for all,
and didn’t give a toss the cuckoo’s call
contained no message.
                                    Let the rain fall.

Originally published in The Barefoot Muse

On Esperance Bay

So pebble-rich a beach will never miss
a mere fourteen shaped oval, heart and pear.
Here, a reddish, orange-brown one. There,
a semi-oval, semi-kite. Then this:
a yin-yang dancing on a heart of gold.
But now it’s gloaming time; it’s hard to see
their glamour any more. And only three
of these fourteen will have their fortunes told.
I somehow doubt these sleeping beauties mind.
What’s it to them this Scottish sonneteer’s
account’s soon twenty-two in terms of years
spent sheltered on this shore? They’re deaf and blind
to rise and rush and fall, to this kiss blown
across the sea, to now being left alone.

Originally published in Lucid Rhythms


You have no earthly means of challenging
oblivion. Its menace snags your fears;
its malice smothers love; its madness sneers
at composition. Every note you sing
might just as well, well, never have been sung.
You think by fastening your windows tight
you’ll cheat that hound from hell? Hell, every night
it stands outside and drools with triple tongue!
So much for noble dreams. So much for rules.
So much for truth and beauty. In the end
you’ll go out howling. How can you pretend
compliance is a safety net for fools,
yet practise it yourself? You dunderhead!
What good is recognition once you’re dead?

Originally published in The Chimaera


Inopem me copia fecit.

Wealth made a pauper of me.
      —Ovid, Metamorphoses

In retrospect, I never thought I’d get
to wrap my hand around your naked breast
until your boyfriend’s timely absence blessed
our secret love. You begged me not to fret,
insisted that your boyfriend was no threat,
till I believed your leaving him was best
for everyone. And neither of us guessed
we’d each in turn be ravaged by regret.
A heavy price for such a petty theft:
but then again we could have been more deft.
I waited two long months for you to call.
Your valentine arrived too late; I’d left
for Italy. Quite innocent, I’d fall
for someone else. I meant no harm at all.

Originally published in 14 by 14

No Bloody Way!

for Mark and Mike, whose room it was
A crowd of students sitting round a room
one summer night in 1983.
They barely move, make little sound, assume
they’ve every right to simply wait and see.
Until the college porter comes along
to tell them that they’re threatening the peace.
It’s clear to them he’s got his sums all wrong.
And what’s he going to do? Ring the police?

This memory will always ebb and flow;
a part of me has never come of age.
So when today I find a treble “No!”
means rattling the same old bloody cage,
I’m back in Oxford sounding out success,
the silent choir inside me shouting “Yes!”

Originally published in The Flea

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