Fragments of Blue

The Red Field's installation in the abbey ruins

The Red Field’s installation in the abbey ruins

I’ve mentioned my first experience of singing with the Fragments Project in Hawick and now it’s time to continue cataloguing my more recent collaboration with it in Jedburgh, through the mixed medium of preamble and poem!

(This is a digression: Actually, just typing that makes me realise the effect my research on Dante has seeped into my blogging enterprise… Both his Vita Nuova – the narrative of his love for Beatrice – and his Convivioa philosophical treatise – are constructed from prose stories and commentaries around poems. That literary model is called prosimetrum and I appear to have accidentally slipped into it. Anyway, back to the preamble).


I was taking part in the first performance of Seán Doherty‘s ‘Et clamabant’, a piece written in response to the music in the Hawick Missal, at an event in Jedburgh Old and Trinity Church and in the ruins of Jedburgh Abbey. I’ve written a longer piece about the experience for the project blog, but for now, here’s a poem that came out of the evening:

A tea break during rehearsals at Jedburgh

A tea break during rehearsals at Jedburgh


Jedburgh Abbey

glass fallen from the windows

ground by weather

allowed now

in through emptinesses

unglazed with everchanging stain

a membrane hard not to imagine

and outside remains




if only in the persistence of window frames


if only in the voices


passed between the pillars


if only in the north wall

which half remembers holding back

the crush of sweating life

of trade and cattle profane chatter

of courting and wedding and begetting


if only in the song


if only in perception

unconvinced by the openness to atmosphere

reminding the wallstones that they belong

to the water

to the winds

to the gentle corruptions of time

to the still resounding sky

How to catch a falling knife

Place an apricot under it,

let the flesh slow the edge

one bite at a time


pinch it between sheets

of soft cotton,

they may not protect the fingers

but they will absorb the blood


bottle it blade first,

stopper the wine, rum, apple juice-

point dipped in the liquid,

if it is silver

let it preserve champagne


time it, perfectly, so that you may grasp it by the handle

with a full fist gripping,

ripping it from its gravity


cushion it with down pillows

and let it flay the linen,

spreading insides

as a worrying fox spreads

pigeon feathers


knock it from its arc

or coax it gently from the air it grazes

fingertip it away from harm

assuredly but with delicacy, lightness


trust it not to fall

to sustain a teeter, brinking

on a fulcrum just so,

but should it overturn,

use gloves, use care


use a bowl of something,

butter perhaps, fresh from the fridge

it may surprise you with its efficacy.



(This poem was shortlisted for the Aesthetica Creative Writing prize and appeared in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2013)