On the Fourth Day of Christmas we bring you John Mackie, Sally Long




The 25th

How the hell
do they do that
year after year
on the morning of
this Decemberfest purloined
from Mithra;

timed to perfection
best bib and tucker
yellow beaks gleaming
posing for presents
promising nirvana
if I feed them now
tip tapping my conscience
and memory of you?

it’s a bit of a struggle
I am still in Jajouka
seeing off the goat boy
with the screaming of pipes
or lost in the Latin
some other God mumbled
to justify incense
and the rose window at Chartres

but hey here you are
at my feast for one and his cat
even though it’s been years
since I laid you a place,
how do you do that,
turn up
without smelling as bad
as you did
when we burned you
at Buckie on medical advice?

the children are scattered
London, Bonn, Rome
they remember you differently
as careless of them
as though your cancer was wilful –
was it so hun? I know that it forced me
to a series of metaphors
still point, rock, tower of strength
I never wanted, am trying still to melt them
as much as I loved you please go away
and take your Christmas blackbirds
with you



John Mackie, who, sadly, died Friday (23rd December), lived in Aberdeenshire. He had been published in a range of media since the 1960s and you can find his more recent work in Scotia Extremis, Poetry Scotland, The Poets’ Republic, Clear Poetry and Spotify. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.





Bethlehem’s sky was busy with stars
when we first saw him –
an old man leaning on a staff,
an improbable visitor making his way
wary across the fields.

Next minute the sky was on fire –
arrows of light; gold, silver,
scarlet. Nathaniel yelled we had better
make a run for it. No one has ever seen
the glory of the Lord and lived.

The only one not quaking
was the old man. He stood there
tranquil telling us not to lose it,
to go to town to find a new born
baby. It sounded a rum story to me.

Suddenly there was the sound
of singing. We looked up at the sky;
saw no-one, only the sound grew
louder, louder. Then before we knew it
silence. Bethlehem’s sky was busy with stars.



Sally Long is a PhD student at Exeter where she is investigating the influence of The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius on contemporary poetry. She has had poems published in magazines including Agenda, Ink, Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Poetry Salzburg Review, Snakeskin amongst others. Sally edits Allegro Poetry Magazine.

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