Jim Carruth

Jim Carruth is the current poet laureate for Glasgow and the founder of St Mungo’s Mirrorball, the network of Glasgow poets. His first chapbook Bovine Pastoral appeared in 2004 and has been followed by a number of well received chapbooks including Prodigal (Mariscat, 2014), which won the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. His first full-length collection Killochries was published by Freight in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Poetry Book of the Year, the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize and the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize for first collection. His new collection Black Cart will appear in early 2017.

Photo: Robert Twigger


Five O’Clock Verses »

Reading: Patience Agbabi, Jim Carruth

Sat 4 March | 17:00 - 18:00 | £6.00/£4.00 | Parliament Hall, South Street


The Progressive Canadian Barn Dance

The first time she wore the new dress
was at the farmers’ harvest dance
on a night breathless and warm.

Uneasy with her body’s new bloom
she would have sat the night out
had her mother not dragged her up

to be thrown around like a doll
from rough hands to rough hands,
from Anderson to Macgregor

from Macgregor to young Wilson
in his father’s tight tweed jacket,
from Wilson to club foot Brogan

from club foot Brogan to Lamberton
in his scabby working bunnet
from Lamberton to the moleman

from the moleman to his apprentice
staring at her in his strange way,
from the apprentice to Patterson,

who danced fast but talked slow.
From Patterson to Uncle Jack
(not her real uncle of course)

who held her too close and grinned
talked about how much she’d grown up.
She struggled free from his grip

found one of the Mackenzie boys
from one of them to the other
with their shiny new market boots

and on to old Wilson with his crook
and on to his buddy Baxter
smelling of his black face flock;

from his strong stench to Anderson
scratching his ringworm;
from Anderson to Macgregor

who birled her until she was dizzy;
from Macgregor to young Wilson
(they say he’ll never be his father)

from Wilson to Brogan’s brown eyes,
from brown-eyed Brogan to Lamberton
who threw his bunnet onto a seat.

She grabbed him. The pace quickened,
the dance lifting her dress up light as air,
she spun him away before moving on

from Lamberton to the moleman
sweating lochs through his winter shirt.
After the moleman his apprentice;

from the cross-eyed apprentice
to big Patterson flustered and red.
From Patterson on not to Uncle Jack

who was wheezing at the bar
but the clumsy Mackenzie boys
taking turns to bruise her feet

before passing her to old Wilson
who staggered to keep up with her,
mentioned he once courted her mother—

Oh surely not she laughed out loud,
winked at him in a new confidence,
glanced back at her mother

then on to his drinking pal Baxter.
From his beery breath to Anderson
from Anderson to Macgregor

from Macgregor to young Wilson
from Wilson to Johnny Brogan
who clasped her hand tight, echoed

her smile and the music stopped.


Jim Carruth

From The Black Cart (forthcoming from Freight, 2017)