see how simply the floors
collapse upon each other
from the impact of overloaded words:
And in a schaw, a litill thar beside
Thai lugyt thaim, for it was nere the nycht
From the wood which gives shade, also comes the word “shadow,” which relates to the “schawaldouris,” the wanderers of the woods taken in mid-life, the ghosts among the “tubers of tall towers.” In short, through his association of words, his father’s death does indeed send him—along with his reader—on a journey to “the House of Shaws.”
Many of the poems contained in this volume, accordingly, concern ghosts, not only the ghost and the accompanying memories of his dead father, but the ghosts of other great men and poets who dissected the dead—whether they be the noted doctors Sir John Finch and Sir Thomas Baines or the great literary dissector of death, Paul Celan. Some of the most touching poems in this volume are Kinloch’s fascinating “translations” of Celan—which he describes as works written “after” or “eftir the German”—into the Scots language of his father’s old dictionary.
you may confidently
regale me with snow:
as often as I strode through summer
shoulder to shoulder with the mulberry tree,
its youngest leaf
Kinloch’s “synthetic Scots” version reads:
whenever shouder tae shouder
ah srapit thru simmer wi the mulberry
its smaaest leaf
The interviewer asks me
‘what your father would have
thought of it had he lived?’
when I know he knew,
dodged it every time he looked at me
because I was a mirror
and mourn him every day
because he died before he ever got to know me.
A is for abbé, for abba
—that’s ‘Daddy’ in Hebrew,
Father of rose and clerestory—
a rhyme scheme to tie
this meandering grief
down to the point of its pain.
Los Angeles, June 25, 2006
Reprinted from Shadowtrain [England], No. 6 (July 2006).