Mhairi Owens




Whin Ah’m feart
Ah dowp doon amang the birks
an draw maucht fae thir solit shaunks,
et thir through-comin first efter the ice.

Gin Ah could mak speals,
Ah’d staun match among thim,
hidden an cured bi the soop o thir floorish.
We’d hove a hale widlan atween us,

titchin wir lid-tips lik faimlie,
mend the paulie sillerless an,
gin we failt, catch ablaze.
Scrub, Ah’ve bin cried, Witch.

Fit fur thrapplin wi
the bare hauns o a punler.
Weel they ken ma thrawn birk’s baurk.
Its hertwid aneath.


Besom: birch broom/derogatory word for a female | dowp: sit | birks: birch trees | maucht: might | gin: if | soop: sweep | lid: leaf | paulie : weak | sillerless: penniless | scrub: a mean person | punler:  forester.





There wiz ayeweys claitterin in wir union,
you faishin aboot yer food – ower late
oan the table fir maister an mair, ower
sautit an peppert fir yer taste.

And noo yer haivrin divorcement,
no even fae me! Fair dos, Ah’ve listint
an listint. Till ah’ve grawn lang-luggit, Ah sweir
if Ah hear ony mair Ah’ll be totally wizzent.

May yer meat be as wersh as yer national anthem,
Ah wiz ayeweys twafaut wi you. Noo yer seein
wha’s yer pals in yer mairritless mynt
an Ah’m gittin tae France sin Ah’m still European.


Faishin: fussing | maister an mair: domineering master | haivrin: talking rubbish | fair dos: fair play | lang-luggit: shrewd | wersh: bland | twafaut:  dual | mynt:  intention.



The Flytin o the Man o The Minch an Morrough


Great menseless , dytit, uggsome skaffie,
Ah’m no shair whaur ye think ye’re aff tae.
Ye’re mibbe takkin literally
yer crambo-clink.
Yer weel misleart.  Ma skeely ranes’ll
see ye sink.                                                                        

Wee blae man, set yer faus-hoose straight –
Ah come fae Eilean nam Ban Mora.
Ah’m no a boat, ya reprobate,
an ye’ll no sink me.
Yer creengin Scots is nae peel fir
the stour Ah’ll bring ye.

Wad-be-at boot, ye’re ower rochsome –
oot o yer deepins in ma lochsome.
Nae boat, ye say, an yit Ah’ve seen
faur brawer starns.
Ah’d droon ye as a haun’s turn tae
Jock Tamson’s bairns.

Did Ah hear lochsome? Yer shairly glaikit.
Weel seen roon here ye’re owerratit.
Ye should be black affrontit wi
yer sair-set jinglin.
Yer blatter bein a maik yer blae chowks
should be tinglin.

Ah’m shair ye’d summon quite a gale
wi jist yin fairt, ye bein the whale
ye ur, but here’s the thing – yer flan’ll
no luk gallus
anent the strouth o yin whang fae
ma fit-lang phallus.

Fair baws ye’re giein an ootlin here,
it’s mibbe that Ah wisnae clear.
Ye’ve earnt yer name Man o the Minch –
Ah should hae seen it!
The Minch bein yer Man Inch, the yairn
bein hou ye sweel it.


Flytin: rhyming scoldiing match | Morrough:  Mermaid | menseless: ill-bred | dytit: witless | skaffie: fishing boat | crambo-clink: doggerel | misleart: mistaken | skeely ranes:  skilful rhymes | faus-hoose: empty space in stack of grain for drying | Eilean nam Ban Mora: Island of the Big Women/Eigg | peel: match | stour: storm | wad-be-at:  ‘wanna be’ | boot:  derogatory term for a female | rochsome: crude | lochsome:  word made up for the rhyme | weel seen: it’s obvious | Jock Tamson’s bairns: all humanity | black affrontit: very embarrassed | sair-set: in difficulties | blatter: storm | maik:  match | flan: squall | gallus:  bold | anent: against | strouth:  might | fair baws:  fair play | ootlin: outsider | sweel: spin.


Mhairi Owens is a community worker living in Fife, Scotland. She tutors in Poetry with the University of St Andrews International Summer School and writes in both English and Scots. Her poems have appeared, or are pending publication, in various anthologies and journals. These include Cyphers; Glasgow Review of Books; Ink, Sweat and Tears; Obsessed with Pipework; Poetry Salzburg Review; Prole; South; Southlight; Strix; The Moth; The North and The Rialto. Her poem ‘Shiftin’ won the 2019 Wigtown Prize.

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