Hello, Stranger Poems

Fare Thee Weel an Hello Stranger by Leslie Benzie

22 September 2021

Scots was once the vibrant and predominant language in Dumfries and Galloway. When MacTaggart wrote his Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopaedia in 1824, Scots was the language of rural and urban communities, of the farmer, the poet and the merchant. Now it is a rarer thing, though real efforts are being made to promote it in schools and elsewhere and there is a new generation of Scots language writers. Lesley Benzie from Aberdeen and now living in Glasgow, writes in beautful Scots.

Lesley published her first important poetry collection ‘Sewn Up’ twenty years ago but disappeared from the scene for a while. Luckily she has re-emerged and 2020 saw her published in numerous magazines/anthologies and receive a Highly Commended in FWS Vernal Equinox and Runner-up in McCash Scots Poetry Competitions. In 2021 she was a contributor to the Deid Guid Scots Project, and was shortlisted in both the Main and Scots categories in the Wigtown Poetry Prize. She is also a contributor with 3 other women writers to a collaborative collection, Wanderlust Women, being published in late autumn by Seahorse and a Doric collaborative collection, Norlan Lichts, with 2 other women writers, which will be published in spring 2022 by Rymour Books.

Here she reads Fare Thee Weel an Hello Stranger, a poem which spans the pandemic, and speaks of the birth of new relationships, new hopes for the future.

Fare Thee Weel an Hello Stranger

Pairt 1

Jist afore the pandemic, durin anither

o those circular conversations far his version

o reality wis sae at odds wi mine, it wis like

bein sucked intae a vortex sae strang that

Ah fragmented an became a stranger tae masel.

Lockdoon, fan it came, wis an existence

far moments tickin slowly by at hame

became an echo chamber for the dissonance

that lay within its waas.

Sae Ah cloaked ma loneliness in silence

an tholed anither o life’s lessons,

that ye could spend several years

wi somebody an ken them even less

at the hinner end than ye dae at the beginnin.

Pairt 2

Oor trachles, an inevitable partin,

wis as naethin tae the low moan ae sorrow

in the cathedral chambers o ma hairt

at hivvin tae live athoot contact wi ma kids.

Despite aa their adultness, they tugged

at the umbilicus at the centre o ma bein

an Ah could recaa like it wis yestreen

the spill an smell o iron in the bleed,

the saaty sweat an hormonal birth pangs

that rang their arrival in ma life

foriver efter changed.

Fan a finally hugged each ane bi ane,

Ah could’ve crushed their banes an sniffed

their hair an skin till Ah wis quite obscene.

An frequentin live poetry events again

has been like milk an honey for ma soul

especially fan combined wi live music an singin,

sung at perfect pitch. Minor chords gaurin

me shed a tear an moments later a major beat

makkin a clarsach o ma backbanes.

Ah would’ve got up tae dance an nae cared

fa wis gawkin, at an auld wifie makkin

a richt ticket o hersel, had there nae been

some restrictions still in place.

Seein aa ma freens an Faimily again

has broucht laughs and smiles that mak

ma face sair an ma body ache as if

Ah’d played till extra time an then

been lifted high aboon their shooders

like Ah had scored the winnin goal.

An sure enough, Ah really think Ah hiv

for there’s nae greater gift than tae hae fowk

in ma life fa mak ma feel like Ah’ve come hame

an that Ah’m nae langer a stranger tae masel.

The series is curated by Hugh McMillan, poet and writer, Ambassador for the Scottish Poetry Library in 2020 and Editor of its anthology ‘Best Scottish Poems’ for 2021.