Gear Shift

Gill Butler-Orli

2 October 2020

Eleven Poets for Eleven Days

Wigtown Book Festival has asked Hugh McMillan, one of the Scottish Poetry Library’s Champions and a nationally respected poet from Dumfries & Galloway, to curate ‘Eleven Poets for Eleven Days’ for our 2020 festival. 

A poet from the region will be introduced daily, here on our website, along with a video reading of their specially commissioned poem.

Gill Butler-Orli is the ninth poet in the series.

Gear Shift

We are higher than the six chimneys of Braelorne,
up where the buzzard floats and tremors,
the honeyed cow returns my gaze with puzzled eyes,
resumes her chewing, curls her tongue around
to lick her side.

We are wind blown down the lanes,
chicaning through potholes
at every farmyard gate,
with distant glimpse of cloud-capped Cairnsmore,
the Gallic grey of chateau turrets,
Calmazie where the Ploughman worked and played.
We dream of owning every whitewashed house
with bothy, bower, chicken run and shed,
until the next abandoned roofless house
which in our mind rebuilds its chimneys,
re-roofs itself and glazes up its opened eyes.

Along the hedgerow garden
willowherb and meadowsweet spear the sky
With lurid pink,
spume and froth amongst the hawthorn.
Bedstraw sparkling in the verge
of knapweed’s jewelled crowns,
the first harebell of the year,
the snowy plates of yarrow’s feathered stems.

My heart and legs pump up the hills
and slowly breath becomes less hard
until I’m free-wheeling to the tunes inside my head
the songs we heard last night
that spoke of freedom, Scotland,
wars and waking up the dead.

The corduroy as the tractor
scythes the grass along the contours of the tilted field,
produces necklaces of softened gold around the coppice
left growing in the centre of the land.

We turn to home where flanks of metal spear across horizons,
tyre stacks, tarps, all framed with summer’s measures on the fringes
of this road back to where we will sleep the night,
knowing we had breathed the Machars in our lungs
so it is flowing through our veins.

Gill Butler-Orli

Gill is a gardener and garden designer by profession and has written poetry since she was a seedling. She is one of the bunch of talented poets who radiate round the intellectual crucible that is Beltie Poets in Wigtown. Her poetry is drawn from place and memory. Like all rural Dumfries and Galloway poets interpretations of the landscape are both a challenge and a compulsion. It doesn’t take long, as she says in this poem, for the Machars to flow through the veins.