Hello, Stranger Poems

Hello Stranger by Joanne McKay

27 September 2021

JoAnne McKay was born in Romford, Essex into a family of wholesale butchers and slaughterers, and followed a career in the police. She moved to Scotland over two decades ago, and now lives in Penpont. She is an excellent poet with a particularly forensic interest in aspects of the past. Her project on Plague, Atlas Pandemica, culminated in a brilliant exhibition in Dumfries Museum, Precedent and Pandemic: What Remains? Her first pamphlet was The Fat Plant (2009) and her second, Venti (2010), was runner-up in the Callum Macdonald Award for Scottish Poetry Pamphlets. Further pamphlets followed: Grave with Lights (2012) and You Are Not Here (2016). Her latest chapbook, with poet Maria Stadnicka, is If you find my mother, buy her flowers (The Poet’s Republic Press, 2019).

Here JoAnne addresses a very old stranger, a priceless depiction of a Mesopotamian Goddess, one of many pilfered artefacts in the British Museum.

Hello Stranger

And now I am wary, dust-winged traveller

again, I greet you. Your moonface moths me

to this ghostyard of glories that remains free

upon entry to hymn hunter gatherers.

I should not want you, but dare the slaughter

of such brazen imperiality,

and between us such difference in degree:

you, busted Queen and I, butcher’s daughter.

Go fly these halls by night, migrant whispers

on your wings’ wind of hands that flapped you here –

rough finders, hard dealers, looters and thieves,

so known to your stone captive brothers and sisters,

crated and crying their artefact tears –

to my homeland

deserving of all it receives.

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.