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Stephen Watt

September 2, 2015

Misspelt Tattoos


We, living things, are the twinkling treasure
of sunlight, vacuuming ghosts;
seabed dust on achromatic oysters
dredged into fishing boats.
Sub rosa bones, bound by tattooed skins,
are like ribbons on diplomas,
inked with the letters of misspelt names.
Tributes are often made in precarious ways,

but tradition insists white crosses,
scarlet roses,      ashes scattered across golf courses,
black ties,          white shirts,       solid coffins,
rain,      red eyes,            looking solemn.
Change. Life doesn’t happen that often.
Everyone was young to someone once.



Lay Down My Arms


This was my favourite jacket.

It was a modish, stylish coat.
Timeless Irish threads were sewn by fingers
adorned by calluses embedded at the tips.
My arms slid into cordial sleeves
like my mother’s squeeze;
the clasp of her beating heart,
embroidered like a crest.

Savoured love lived inside its pockets.
Punk concert stubs, lover’s keepsakes;
the folded, red-silver foil love-heart,
manufactured from a Tunnock’s teacake.
The talcum scent of my niece’s head
as she pretend-wed her favourite ted;
my jacket, both a feigned veil and cathedral train.

Neutral, elephant grey shades
rescued me from the Old Firm riots
escalating at Cessnock Underground Station.
Emerald-coloured duffel coats
streeled into kerfuffles, the knuckles
of Ibrox billy goats concealing belt buckles
beneath those long, navy trench coats.

It has been a victim.
Hostage to nightclub cloakrooms
where Marlborough lights
suppressed the overpowering perfume
in the neon-lit queues exiting.
Returned, it reeked of careless whiskey,
New York subways,

my last thirteen birthdays;
every passing one, sot.

And on each of those birthdays
gifts of chalkstripe suits, khaki parka’s,
navy wool bombers, herringbone blazers
in shades of cinnamon stone.
Relatives second-hand offerings
of leather jackets which more resembled
George Michael than the Ramones.

I have held it together, sewing on buttons
when my own circumference expanded.
I have darned the shoulders, wiped clean
the last scuff marks of friend’s existence
before taking them to their place of rest.
Collar raised at funeral sermons
and tributes of coats adorned by Elvis.

God’s spilt rose wine is absorbed by clouds
as we cross over flushed fields
filled with curious cows, homeward bound
through the Bellsmyre tunnels.
Perhaps now, and only now,
you will understand your appeal
as I remove this jacket and lay down my arms

across these rubescent puddles.



Stephen Watt is a poet from Glasgow whose debut collection “Spit” followed shortly after winning the Poetry Rivals Slam in Peterborough in 2011. Stephen has also successfully won the StAnza Digital Poetry Slam and a number of other poetry awards across the UK. His debut pamphlet collection “Optograms” is earmarked to be published in late 2015/early 2016.


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