The Queen of Sheba

A smashing poem this from Kathleen Jamie.kathleen_jamie_by_eamonn_mccabe-resized

The Queen of Sheba

Scotland, you have invoked her name

once too often

in your Presbyterian living rooms.

She’s heard, yea

even unto heathenish Arabia

your vixen’s bark of poverty, come down

the family like a lang neb, a thrawn streak,

a wally dug you never liked

but can’t get shot of.


She’s had enough. She’s come.

Whit, tae this dump? Yes!

She rides first camel

of a swaying caravan

from her desert sands

to the peat and bracken

of the Pentland hills

across the fit-ba pitch

to the thin mirage

of the swings and chute; scattered with glass.


Breathe that steamy musk

on the Curriehill Road, not mutton shanks

boiled for broth, nor the chlorine stink

of the swimming pool where skinny girls

accuse each other of verucas.

In her bathhouses women bear

warm pot-bellied terracotta pitchers

on their laughing hips

All that she desires, whatever she asks

She will make the bottled deams

of your wee lassies

look like sweeties.


Spangles scarcely cover

her gorgeous breasts, hanging gardens

jewels, frankincense; more voluptuous

even than Vi-next-door, whose

high-heeled slippers

keeked from dressing gowns

like little hooves, wee tails

of pink fur stuffed in the cleavage of her toes;

more audacious even than Currie Liz

who led the gala floats

through the Wimpey scheme

in a ruby-red Lotus Elan

before the Boys’ Brigade band

and the Brownies’ borrowed coal-truck;

hair piled like candy-floss

who lifted her hands from the neat wheel

to tinkle her fingers

at her tricks

among the Masons and the elders and the police.


The coal black skin

of the Bible couldn’t hold her,

nor the atlas green

on the kitchen table,

you stuck with thumbs

and split to fruity hemispheres-

yellow Yemen, Red Sea, Ethiopia.Stick in

with the homework and you’ll be

cliver like yer faither.

but no too cliver

no above yersel.


See her lead those great soft camels

widdershins round the kirk-yaird


as she eats

avocados with apostle spoons

she’ll teach us how. But first


she wants to strip the willow

she desires the keys

to the National Library

she is beckoning

the lasses

in the awestruck crowd…


Yes, we’d like to

clap the camels’

to smell the spice,

admire her hairy legs and

bonny wicked smile, we want to rake

PHDs in Persian, be vice

to her president: we want

to help her

ask some Difficult  Questions


she’s shouting for our wisest man

to test her mettle:


Scour  Scotland for a Solomon


Sure enough: from the back of the crowd

someone growls:

                           Whae do you think y’ur?

and a thousand laughing girls and she

draw our hot breath

and shout


draw our hot breath

                         and shout:


My work background is in operational meteorology and in my career I have been involved in forecasting for everything from bananas to jumbo jets.I joined the Met Office 1974 as an observer at Glasgow Airport. After training as a forecaster, I worked as an Operational aviation forecaster at various defence sites and airports. In 1982, I moved to Glasgow Weather Centre as a forecaster and STV broadcaster till 1988. He then took up a post as Senior Forecaster London Weather Centre, then Senior Forecaster ITV where I qualified as a trainer in presentation techniques for the ITV Association. After being diagnosed with MS, he moved into management and became Head of London Weather Centre in 1997 followed by a period of front-line management for Southern England and Europe covering London and Cardiff Weather Centres and the Met Offices on defence stations from Akrotiri in Cyprus to St Mawgan in Cornwall. He took up the post of Met Office Chief Advisor for Scotland & Northern Ireland in March 2008 and moved to Edinburgh. I retired in September 2014. My one claim to fame is once performed a comedy sketch on TV with Manuel (Andrew Sachs) from Fawlty Towers in support of Comic Relief.

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Posted in Poetry, Reviews, Scotland

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