Selected Poetry 1996 - 2010

Poetry by Irene Hossack 
Photography by Paul Stibbles


It must be very liberating

to rip the legs off your trousers

and call them shorts. Invigorating

to sit behind the wheel

of a converted ambulance

and call it home,

to search amongst the fallen

leaves of Autumn for mushrooms

and make them a meal,

to gather sticks and twigs

from the undergrowth

and cook by the fire’s glow.

To rip the legs off your trousers

and call them shorts,

to make your address

by the constellations of the stars.

(Poetry Scotland, November 2010)

Choosing My Religion

I killed a fly and worried all morning.

Not being Buddhist, I worried in secret.

I walked to a shopping mall where an icon

of Christ hung on chains from the ceiling,

his pink lips moved but his words,


Standing stones are waiting for the solstice,

late-twenty-first-century rays gather

on obsolete rocks, their mystery

being the meaning of life,

an answer perhaps for lost,

urban lambs, also,

tarot, crystals and numerology,

chakras, star signs and homeopathy,

ecstasy, theosophy and colonic irrigation.

(Poetry Scotland, November 2010)

Quantum Poetics

What we might know intuitively
about the minuscule immeasurably

high energies of everything
we cannot see
nothingness exerting
her force.

Bosons transmit the weak
in the constant
creation - annihilation
of virtual particles
in the void.

The measurement problem:
in the act of observation
a created reality appears
you look for meaning.

(Gutter 2, March 2010)

(Photograph by Irene Hossack)


It is all this time last week;

getting along absently

with the everyday,

humdrum, then

an orbit shift.

It is all how can this be

so and a longing for

before this time

last week, when

the living were all

accounted for.

It is all another beginning,

thrust upon us in the stark

reality of this time last week.

Gutter 2, March 2010

Lighting up

Dunhill one milligram, gift-wrapped
box of gold and handy flip-top lid.
I reach inside repeatedly for those long,
white, smoking tubes with pale orange tips.
Lit in clandestine places, glowing remotely
in marked out spaces: after dinner, outside,
smoking zones with windowed walls,
in bed, in secret, while I make telephone
calls. Resplendently held between fingers
and raised to my waiting mouth, I
suck deeply upon their contained pleasure -
softly inhaling the essence of a dragged
sensation; rushing to satisfy the soul,
slowly releasing the smoke from my mouth,
exhaling the cloud from my lips shaped
in an O, producing invisibility,
watching it go, and still seeking
the ultimate cigarette.

(Skald, 10, 1999)


On cool Autumn days in Melbourne
I can smell Glasgow. Transposed,
I think it is Spring
and look for lambs - lambs that aren't
far from the city, in fields
on farms like handkerchiefs,
in contrast with the spare, sprawling bush.
I imagine the almost edible aroma
of rain as it falls on untended pavements,
mingling centuries of my ancestors’ dust.
When the sounds of cicadas echo in the evening,
they bring with them a quandary:
leaving me in darkness, the sun
descends to give you morning light,
migration of moon shadows
and time’s disruption, this now
is your tomorrow, the past, already here.

(Noman 5, November 1998)

Our Times

Monday nights you drove me to dancing class,
and we would chant the rhythms of the Ragged
Rascal Running Round the Rugged Rock.

I made inscrutable covenants with you;
dancing to the tunes you whistled for me,
listening as you would list my honours,
naming them one by one in a nightly
ritual of each unique recital,
punctuating my goodnight kisses.
We would stay up late to watch boring
shows like International Horse Jumping
although we never knew why. When I was six
you took me to see the white horses at Largs,
though they were not horses at all. You helped
me tie my shoes and taught me how to tell
the time by the hands of a broken clock.

And now, I regret that game of squash we never had,
and the times I wished you’d gone to bed instead
of waiting up. Your invincible heart has become a lie,
unlike the broken clock upon whose
face you taught me the intricate workings
of time’s past and time’s to.

(Transparent Words, , June 2005)

Duvet Day

Take a cold, Wintery morning in January,
when the snow is three weeks old, lying brown at the edges.
Give it the merest hint of flushed pink as light to see by,
with a trace of rain hiding in the low-lying clouds.
In a king-sized eiderdown, supine
upon a bed as soft as cotton-wool, still warm
from last night’s pleasures, decide
the day can get by without you.

(Published as ‘Dawn Choice’, Poetry Nottingham International, v. 50(4), 1996)

Walking Monopoly

Start from Go by Conduit, between Regent Street and Bond Street
through Mayfair, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square
on Autumnal afternoons. The light is gloomed by unbroken cloud,
indecisive winds and rain conspire to invert umbrellas,
billow raincoats and dislodge the hats of tourists wandering in
from Japan, Canada, Australia and the United States of America,
Pick a Chance Card, Collect two hundred pounds, Move into your hotel. 

The National Gallery looks over the square and for twenty five pence,
you can have a cup of crumbs and pellets specially prepared,
by the Greater London Tourist Board,
to feed the resident pigeons.
Go by Leicester Square, through the Strand and down Embankment
on the Thames, where workers sing from cranes to visitors
sailing in glass-topped boats that meander by Parliament and Big Ben,
Your dividend pays, A building loan matures, Get out of jail free.

Walk across Hungerford Bridge, step over the huddled children
slouched in corners of cold wrought iron,
their heads peep through the sopping blankets they are wrapped in,
begging in whispers with anonymous gazes and self-effacing glances. Don't stop.
Keep pushing towards the Museum of The Moving Image and Royal Festival Hall,
where you can see three-dee plans to build an even better house for the Arts,
Community Chest: Go to Jail, Go Directly to Jail.

(Links, Spring 1999)


Pleasure Places
I have swept the inside of your teeth with my tongue,
felt the rough stubble of your chin and the hardness of your jaw
on my face. I have enclosed you with my body,
taken you in snow, on carpets and on the telephone.
We’ve rushed headlong on the beach before we were missed;
waited until after midnight when the house was asleep;
arriving from trains; in a car along quiet lanes;
in the master bedroom of the Wimpy Show Home;
cramped in the toilet of BA 012, where I have let you in.
I have urged you on when you have taken it slow,
shown you where you should go, helped you see the
secret places for our pleasure when you didn’t know,
how to be less urgent, lose your composure, give me
time, hear me breathe, know when I don’t care where
I am, when I’m swimming outside myself using no stroke. 
(Odyssey, The Anthology of the Exeter Poetry Prize, November 1996)



There is nothing between us that lasted
long enough to write home about.
We had fifty five minutes, give or take
a few hundred hours and ten thousand miles:
some meals together and afterward some
afternoons of gossip and amorous talk, a touch,
walks along beaches, a party or two, formal engagements,
captured moments in hallways, under stairs, and shared cigarettes.
This secret, an exotic gift under mental lock and key,
causes questions I have for you to press in my mind,
questions about polarities, hemispheres and zones of time-
not to mention
why there is nothing to write home about.
(Iota, 46, 1999)

Love Letter To My Family
December 1993 …
I remember everything. I remember for instance
a birthday meal at our favourite restaurant,
all of us dancing in the hallway at the bells,
spinning on the carnival rides at the Kelvin Hall,
building snowmen in the grounds of that
awful hotel on Christmas Eve, our wildness
not welcomed there. Joints and tarot readings
late at night, Wayne’s World on the TV,
eating noodles and pizza from down the road,
past the church and the City Bakeries. James Taylor,
and Shelleyan Orphan on CD.

I remember the beauty configured in snow-weighted trees
seen from the train as I travelled North, writing letters to absent friends,
wishing to stay here, not capturing but remaining somehow like this.
Lying under stars in the snow, enchanted, not feeling cold
and the dark-white-frost night lit by the moon and the stars.

And later, spending hours arguing lovingly
on the subject of truth and cultural difference,
trying to understand chaos theory
in between the sups from cups of Cadbury's Creme.
Resting on Sunday afternoons with the fire blazing,
hearing ghost stories from uncles with not long to go,
giving us goosebumps on our skins, making
them so vulnerable and human as if for the first
time. We all share this desire for the inexplicable,
we share a family tree in whose roots we are entwined.
Always remember,
my spirit lives amongst your chaotic laundry
and microwaved Marks and Spencer's food.
(Poetry Wales, April 1997)

(Photograph by Irene Hossack)

First Memory
Looking down on my bowl of Campbell’s lentil soup,
I am struck like a blow with a thought, the thought
that cannot be properly thought, yet it is my first.
I am seven years old, seated at the family dinner table,
I am here, and I don’t know how I came to be,
or what it is that consists in being this child,
this me, staring at a bowl of lentil soup.
It is the origin of things which hold the answer:
liquefied vegetables, once singularly growing in soil,
grown from seed sown by a farmer in the countryside far from here...
unable to go beyond the seed, to know it before -
I begin again with the bowl.
Bought from a local department store, bought from
a potter, who created and painted and made it from clay,
molded from beginnings as earth and water in an artist’s hands…
I am stuck at the clay and the paint and the potter’s mind -
the seed, the clay and me thinking
about how we came to be here, me thinking the
capacity I have to think towards the impossibility
of ever getting beyond the thought that is myself.
(Cimarron Review International Feature: Australian Poets, July 1997)
Poetry (c) Irene Hossack
Photography (c) Paul Stibbles